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What is "Just Transition"?

Who Needs a Just Transition?

This commentary introduces the just transitions concept, summarizes its importance in meeting climate and social equity goals, and emphasizes the need to define the term more clearly and increase its appeal.


This short commentary introduces the just transitions concept and emphasizes its role in helping to meet climate and justice goals. It briefly outlines the origins of the term in the labor movement and its later adoption by the international climate community. The commentary notes that climate change will create unavoidable social and economic changes that will be distributed unevenly, underscoring the need for a proactive approach.

The authors acknowledge that the term “just transitions” is unfamiliar to many, while to others it suggests a threat to their livelihoods and way of life. A failure to better engage with labor unions, threatened business sectors, and governments has created resistance to decarbonization plans. However, the authors argue that just transitions can provide an organizing principle for dialogue and engagement, as well as a means of securing buy-in for climate action.

Finally, the commentary notes the relative lack of useful guidance on implementing just transitions, and the need for more concrete tools and strategies. A careful review of lessons learned about implementation, as well as practical plans and resources for policymakers and practitioners, will be critical in helping to advance just transitions.

Mapping Just Transition(s) to a Low-carbon World

This paper defines just transitions and emphasizes the term’s roots in social and environmental justice, especially for those in the climate sphere who are less familiar with these underpinnings.


This paper helps define just transitions, emphasizing the origins of the concept in the labor movement and in social and environmental justice. The paper includes a schematic of the approaches of various groups to just transitions, mapping the views of various stakeholders and broadly grouping them under four approaches: status quo maintenance, managerial reform, structural reform, and transformative reform.

The authors review the origins of the concept of just transitions in the U.S. labor movement in the 1970s and discuss how it spread in the 2000s, largely under the rubric of climate policy and with more support from UN agencies and the International Labor Organization (ILO). The authors also explore the evolution of the just transition concept through case studies of six countries: Brazil, Canada, Germany, Kenya, South Africa, and the United States.

Transitions to Sustainability: a Change in Thinking About Food Systems Change?

This paper outlines two different approaches to discussing transitions to food sustainability, one based on a multi-level perspective and one on a social practices approach.


This paper defines two paradigms to advance discussions on transitions to sustainability in food systems: a multi-level perspective (MLP) and a social practices approach (SPA). These two analytical pathways offer complementary insights into the dynamics, durability, and significance of the role of food systems innovation in transitions to sustainability.

The first approach, MLP, focuses on investigating how technology and policy innovations drive transitions to sustainability, in particular how and why they displace more established practices. The second approach, SPA, instead focuses on how behavioral shifts over time contribute to sustainability. More specifically, SPA analyses examine the consequences for resource use of shifting expectations of comfort, cleanliness, and convenience.

Just Transition’ – Just What Is It?: An Analysis of Language, Strategies, and Projects

Based on interviews with a variety of stakeholders, this report explains the concept of just transition, including its origins, evolution, usage, perception, and applications.


This report aims to explain the concept of a just transition, tracing the concept from its origins during the planned reconversion to a peacetime economy after World War II to its application in response to environmental protection policies, its spread in the labor and environmental movements, and its recent adoption and evolution in climate justice.

The findings in this report are based on seventeen interviews conducted in 2015 and 2016 with representatives from activist networks, grassroots organizations, organized labor, and environmental groups. These interviews provide insight into how the range of stakeholders use and perceive the term, how these different concepts entail different policy solutions, and the types of relationships that are developing as stakeholders pursue just transitions.

Despite the growth of the concept and language of a just transition, the authors suggest that there are few examples of just transitions in practice. This report provides several, mostly local-level examples of just transitions programs. It concludes with research questions for future dialogues and a call for communities and groups to contribute to a shared vision of how to achieve just transitions.

Signals of Transformational Change: Insights from the Evaluation of Transformational Change in the Climate Investment Funds

This report presents an evaluative framework to use “signals” to assess transformational change across each of the Climate Investment Funds’ thematic programs.


Itad, a nongovernmental organization focused on inclusive development, conducted an independent evaluation of the Climate Investment Funds’ (CIF) portfolio. The CIF’s portfolio represents a variety of sectors and projects in different contexts and stages of implementation. This brief explains the challenge of identifying transformational change and presents the frameworks that were developed to assess transformational change using “signals.”

Signals are system characteristics that demonstrate progress towards transformation. They can be identified at the early, interim, and advanced stages of each of the four dimensions of transformational change: relevance, systemic change, scaling, and sustainability. Some signals are universal to all types of development programs but many are specific to one sector. For this reason, Itad developed frameworks, including illustrative examples, for each of the CIF’s four thematic programs: clean technology, scaling renewable energy, climate resilience, and sustainable forests.

Transformational Change in the Climate Investment Funds: Summary of Findings from an Independent Evaluation and Evidence Synthesis

This summary report evaluates the Climate Investment Funds’ programs for transformational change according to a systemic framework.


The Climate Investment Funds (CIF) supports transformational change toward low-carbon, climate-resilient development in the areas of mitigation, resilience, and forests through four thematic programs. This report summarizes the work of the Transformational Change Learning Partnership, which was established to understand and evaluate the CIF’s success in supporting transformational change.

This summary document presents the four requirements, or dimensions, of transformational change: relevance, systemic change, scale, and sustainability. It then evaluates each of the four thematic programs for early, interim, and advanced signals of transformational change according to this framework.