FacebookTwitterLinkedInCopy LinkEmailPrint
What is "Just Transition"?

Just transitions/Design for transitions: Preliminary Notes on a Design Politics for a Green New deal

This article argues that the field of design for transitions should be brought into dialogues pushing for just transitions to best meet the technical, cultural, political, and economic needs of a low-carbon future.


This article makes a case for incorporating design politics into just transitions. The author argues that the discourses and movements for just transitions and design for transition have low levels of overlap at present; however, they would greatly benefit from increased collaboration to better meet the needs of a low-carbon economy.

The article first explores the transformation of just transition discourses, as well as the diverse, and sometimes, conflicting visions of what a just transition looks like, and how it should be implemented. The author also traces the dialogues surrounding the contribution of design and modes of design futuring in the shift to sustainability. The author argues that applying design to just transitions approaches can expand the scope of the possible visions for a low-carbon, high-quality future by incorporating elements of prototyping, prefiguring, speculative thinking, and scenario building.

The author concludes with several examples of how design approaches could contribute to just transitions. One such example is in the case of intensified land displacement due to expanding renewable energy technologies. Participatory design and social planning for the energy transition could help prevent green grabbing and better address the social and environmental challenges of the renewable energy transition. The author argues that these approaches and other modes of design politics will make low-carbon transitions more just.

Solar has greater techno-economic resource suitability than wind for replacing coal mining jobs

The article uses spatial analysis to explore the potential of renewable energy jobs directly replacing local jobs lost in the coal sector, with a focus on four major coal-producing countries, namely China, India, Australia, and the United States.


With a focus on China, India, the United States, and Australia, the article uses spatial analysis to identify the local solar and wind capacities required for each coal mining area to enable all coal miners to transition to solar/wind jobs. It also assesses the resource availability in these areas and the scale of the deployment of renewables needed to transition coal miners in areas suitable for solar/wind power. The article suggests that the potential to create local jobs is crucial to a just and effective transition. Unlike other professional workers who migrate to find new jobs when they are laid off, most coal miners become “inactive” when they lose their jobs because of their strong connections to their communities, age, or skills.

The article finds that, with the exception of the U.S., several gigawatts (GWs) of solar or wind capacity would be required for each coal mining area to transition all coal miners to solar/wind jobs. In all four countries, only a small percent of coal mining areas have suitable wind resources. Furthermore, these countries would have to scale up their current solar capacities significantly to be able to transition coal miners working in areas suitable for solar development. The report highlights the need for a localized understanding of labor impacts and shows how spatial methodology can be used to conduct similar assessments.

Becoming fundable? Converting climate justice claims into climate finance in Mesoamerica’s forests

The article assesses the efforts of the indigenous and forest people’s groups in Mexico and Central America to promote claims to climate finance in terms of the different concepts of justice and identifies constraints to more transformative and reparative pathways to just climate outcomes.


The article draws upon the experiences of a coalition of 10 Indigenous and forest peoples’ groups in Mexico and Central America—the Mesoamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests (AMPB)—with regards to their navigation of the discursive strategies suited for accessing climate finance, particularly through the REDD+ instrument. The author uses the history of community positions toward REDD+ to suggest that the claims underpinning their engagement reflect conceptualizations of climate justice, which deviate from those that have dominated policy and popular discussions. The author assesses the feasibility of the AMPB-proposed Mesoamerican Territorial Fund that aims to directly capture climate finance, which would bypass problematic relations with national governments and traditional donors.

The article finds that although Indigenous peoples and local communities have made significant advances in terms of representation, recognition, participation, and concrete funding, the constraints of “becoming fundable” may hinder more transformative and reparative pathways to just climate outcomes. The requirement to “become fundable”, under the terms of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and major donors, is also a demand for the Indigenous peoples and local communities to become legible . This demand presents a clear tension with the member groups’ priorities of self-determination and “buen vivir”—a term that signifies an explicit recognition of the importance of nature for well-being. The author concludes that moving toward distributive justice may be much easier than a more critical interpretation of procedural justice. As such, efforts to support forest climate initiatives in these contested landscapes may benefit from moving away from results and performance-focused discussions toward a view of climate finance as among the means of achieving distributive, procedural, and historical justice on a territorial scale.

Job Losses and Political Acceptability of Climate Policies: Why the ‘Job-Killing’ Argument is So Persistent and How to Overturn It

The author examines how real or perceived job losses from climate policies impact the willingness of workers to support these policies and identifies countervailing policies for decisionmakers to consider.


This paper examines the political acceptability of climate policies and the prevalence of the argument that these policies kill jobs. The author argues that the aggregate losses from climate policies are significantly smaller than the benefits, in terms of health and labor market outcomes. Using case studies and empirical evidence, the author maintains that the “job-killing” argument is exacerbated by a collective action problem. Individuals who are modestly “winning” have little motivation to organize to support climate policies, while those most negatively impacted are more likely to rally against these policies. Concerns for jobs tend to outweigh climate change concerns, especially in the face of extreme negative economic shocks.

The author identifies several factors that amplify the prominence of the “job-killing” argument in affected communities. In addition to the financial crisis and the increase of international competition from China, the geographic concentration of affected workers in the same area is also a key factor. The author also highlights political factors, such as the weakening of unions, which has led to job quantity being prioritized over job quality.

The author suggests that decisionmakers should consider implementing countervailing policies that minimize the collective action problem resulting from negative economic shocks. The author uses examples to suggest some possible policies. These include using lump-sum transfers to affected workers and their communities as a means to increase the political acceptability of climate policies and revenues from a carbon tax being either used to finance workers’ retraining programs or recycled to reduce labor taxation.

Just Transitions for the Miners: Labor Environmentalism in the Ruhr and Appalachian Coalfields

This report argues that labor environmentalism with a tradition of neo-corporatism is best positioned to support a just transition for affected workers with the help of examples from Ruhr (Germany) and Appalachia (United States).


This report challenges the idea that corporatism holds back environmental reforms and prevents workers from meaningfully participating in the decisionmaking process of a coal transition. Using two case studies, it highlights how militant unions with a tradition of neo-corporatism are best positioned to demand just transitions for their members. The author draws on existing literature to identify industrial militancy as: radical opposition to managerial prerogatives; deep advocacy for workers’ rights; a belief in industrial democracy and rank and file control over working conditions; along with support for collective action.

The author makes a case for industrial militancy by using the example of the German neo-corporatist approach of Ruhr and Saarland, a set of practices whereby governments, unions, and employers set the industrial policy together. Through this collaborative approach, the unions and workers’ militants achieved success on behalf of the coal miners. The author compares their success to the limited corporatism approach of the Appalachian coal unions and argues that the failure of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) to achieve a just transition is due to a lack of democracy within the governing system and the absence of the union members’ militancy. The author suggests that the environmental and social achievement of the German coal unions stems from militant activism. A similar approach could benefit the UMWA in achieving a just transition for its miners and their communities. The author concludes that balancing the concerns of labor with the environment requires some degree of worker control over the industrial policy and disruptive militant activism.

Just transition? Strategic framing and the challenges facing coal dependent communities

The author highlights the importance of strategic framing for policies and unpacks how the reframing of the issue, scale, and place of a coal-mine closure to deliver a “just transition” exacerbated the local sense of perceived injustice.


Using an example from the Latrobe Valley in Australia, the author uses the paper to deconstruct how a series of strategic reframings were applied to a transition in a coal community and how they exacerbated the local sense of perceived injustice. The top-down strategy adopted deployed a series of reframings: defining the issue as ‘transition’, defining the scale of intervention as ‘regional’, and then creating a bespoke region as the arena of policy action. A multilevel governance arrangement, created to plan for the transition, was heralded by the policymakers as building local consensus and empowering local communities to take responsibility for the future. The author argues that, in practice, these moves excluded directly affected local constituencies, exacerbated the pre-existing local sense of injustice, and enabled redistributive funding to be diverted to unaffected adjacent areas.

The author argues that the deliberative ‘transitioning’ approach described in this paper failed because it sought to side-step local fears about the likely impacts of change. It deployed the technologies of governance—reframing, reterritorialization, faux deliberative engagement, and quantitative gymnastics—to make the problem of the industrial valley appear unproblematic. The conclusion stresses that progress on closing high emissions fossil-fuel activities requires a more sympathetic and politically astute understanding of place and the situation of affected communities.

The author also highlights how the strategic scaling of policy problems aims to make it easier for the dominant actors to control the policy process and shape the perceptions of the winners and losers of change. This paper contributes to the understanding of the strategic reframing of issues and scales of governance by highlighting their implications for the territorial arenas of policy action, which this paper calls “strategic place framing”. The paper advances the argument that when strategic place frames conflict with accepted territorial boundaries, they invite opposition and resistance, thereby limiting, to some extent, the potential of strategic issue and scale framing because of the political durability of territorial place frames.

Exploring Power and Procedural Justice Within Climate Compatible Development Project Design: Whose Priorities Are Being Considered?

The authors explore how climate-compatible development design processes reconcile stakeholder preferences and procedural justice, using a case study analysis of two donor-funded projects in Malawi.


The authors explore procedural justice and power in project design through a case study analysis of two donor-funded projects in Malawi. They find that “top-down” and “expert-led” design processes and hidden power dynamics often result in the selective involvement of stakeholders, and that over time, the dependency on funding has led to the institutionalization of the donor project design preferences in the practices of non-governmental organizations (NGOs). While a considerable overlap exists between the stakeholders’ “revealed” priorities, invisible power dynamics encourage the suppression of “true” preferences. Therefore, visible, hidden, and invisible forms of power create barriers to procedural justice in climate-compatible development design in these projects.

The authors also present a theoretical framework that is meant to facilitate a holistic exploration of power and procedural justice in project design. Specifically, they used the “power cube” approach as a starting point to facilitate the understanding of participatory and procedural justice “spaces”, through which stakeholders can meaningfully engage with governance systems, along with the visible, hidden, and invisible power dynamics that delimit these spaces. The framework facilitates multilevel analyses, thereby enabling the investigation of whether and how the procedural justice spaces, open to stakeholders, differ across these dimensions.

The authors suggest that policymakers and practitioners can facilitate the patterns of procedural justice, if they put local priorities first, make participatory assessments robust and reflexive, take steps to reconcile worldviews, and harness co-production between professional stakeholders. Furthermore, to create pathways toward procedural justice, policymakers must avoid making design decisions on the basis of epistemological certainties and embrace discursive solutions.

Climate justice and global cities: Mapping the emerging discourses

The paper draws on case studies and a database of initiatives from 100 cities to examine the emergence of the discourses on distributive and procedural justice in urban responses to climate change.


The paper seeks to examine the ways in which concerns about justice are being articulated in the planning and implementation of urban climate change policy and projects, and consider the extent to which the city provides an arena within which questions of climate justice could be thought anew. The authors showcase the differences across the mitigation and adaptation domains in the ways by which the principles of climate justice have been articulated. They have also addressed some of the critical challenges in translating these principles into the urban arena. Drawing on an analysis of the projects and interventions taking place in 100 global cities in response to climate change, they have identified the explicit articulations of distributive and procedural justice across the adaptation and mitigation domains in only a small number of cities.

The authors highlight how the urban context brings to the fore the difficult questions of forms of procedure and type of participation, which could count as “just”, in the context of the widely-variegated forms of climate change response. While similar principles of distributive and procedural justice can be applied to both mitigation and adaptation, in practice, notions of justice are articulated differently across these domains. The authors also highlight specifically the differences in the ways in which justice has been articulated and what it has come to mean when it is framed at different scales, from nation states to individuals.

The authors find that there is limited explicit concern with justice at the urban level. However, where discourses of justice are evident, there are important differences emerging between urban responses to adaptation and mitigation, and between those in the north and in the south. Adaptation responses tend to stress the distribution of the “rights” to protection, although those in the South also emphasize the importance of procedural justice. Mitigation responses also stress the “rights” to the benefits of responding to climate change, with a limited concern for “responsibilities” or for procedural justice. The authors also find that while adaptation responses tend to focus on the rights of individuals, discourses of collective rights are emerging in relation to mitigation. They notice less of an emphasis on matters of procedural justice; such matters are more likely to be a concern in initiatives in the south, whereas responses in the north (often focused on the adaptation to heat) are more technocratic in their orientation.

The Winds of Change: Environmental Justice in Energy Transitions

This article argues that renewable energy systems create procedural injustices just as much as fossil fuels and proposes a collaborative approach to renewable energy governance for a just energy transition.


This article explores the environmental injustices created by the development of energy systems including renewable energy systems, such as the inequitable distribution of environmental hazards and the limited engagement that affected communities have in the decision-making related to the systems. It uses the example of wind energy, describing how wind farms could affect communities and the environment as well as discussing the lack of participation by frontline communities in the governance of renewable energy systems as a cause of procedural injustice. In addition, it proposes community-led energy production as a solution for a just energy transition.

Focusing on wind turbines, the author of this article argues that renewable energies create environmental injustices and health issues for local communities just as much as fossil fuels. The author further suggests that the lack of participation by frontline communities in the governance of these energy eco-systems could be an intentional approach by policymakers and corporations to avoid slowing down the scaling of technology. The author concludes by calling for a democratic approach to energy governance whereby participatory knowledge production is acknowledged as an “integral” part of the energy system. She also advocates for community-led energy production to ensure that technologies being deployed are compatible with the environment in which they live.


Mitigating inequality with emissions? Exploring energy justice and financing transitions to low carbon energy in Indonesia

This article analyzes energy justice in Indonesia’s transition to low-carbon energy and explores how policies have exacerbated energy injustice.


This article explores Indonesia’s efforts to reduce energy poverty in its transition to low-carbon energy, with a particular focus on how distributive, procedural, and recognition justice has been included in policies aimed at increasing private investment in renewable energy electrification. Based on the analysis derived from qualitative interviews, field observation, and the review of government documents and policies, the author argues that despite Indonesia’s energy justice agenda of providing access to affordable electricity for all, the policies in place do not effectively promote energy justice.

In terms of distributive justice, the author argues that spatial injustice in electricity access is still prevalent, especially in the eastern part of Indonesia, where many communities lack reliable energy access. The author suggests that many renewable rural electrification projects may exacerbate this spatial inequality by supplying households and cities that have access to a grid network, while neglecting communities that live closest to the electricity generation sites. This is partly due to the government’s encouragement of private investment that favors large-scale projects, thereby further exacerbating geographic inequalities. The author argues that procedural injustice is also prevalent in the energy decision-making processes due to a lack of transparency in the current bidding and procurement processes and limited space for the public participation and engagement in decisions. In terms of recognition, the author asserts that marginalized communities living in areas, where electricity is not considered economically favorable, are neglected and denied electricity access.

The author also makes suggestions for better ways to incorporate energy justice principles into policies and programs. First, energy policies should include more inclusive approaches, such as encouraging public participation and increasing transparency. Second, energy policies need to incentivize diversity beyond large-scale and on-grid projects to effectively target those most affected by energy poverty. Third, contextually grounded approaches best suited to the needs of local communities should be prioritized. Finally, public finance should also be considered in addressing the needs of those most vulnerable to energy poverty.