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What is "Just Transition"?

Politicizing Energy Justice and Energy System Transitions: Fossil Fuel Divestment and a “Just Transition”

This paper seeks to broaden conceptualizations of energy justice to help policymakers and citizens identify the unequal distribution of costs, risks, and vulnerabilities across energy lifecycles and ensure a transition to a more just and democratized energy system.


This paper seeks to expand the current concept of energy justice across entire energy lifecycles—supply chains, production, distribution, and waste—to better illustrate the injustices of the current energy system so policymakers and citizens can identify the unequal distribution of costs, risks, and vulnerabilities across energy lifecycles. The authors identify two key areas that require greater scrutiny.

First, they call for greater recognition of politics and power dynamics. They contend that the recent divestment movement has enabled broad democratic involvement in institutional investment decisions that could have been disruptive. That movement expands “energy justice” beyond issues of the climate injustice of burning of fossil fuels to include the negative impacts of extraction, refining, production, and distribution of energy—thereby forcing responsibility onto a new set of actors.

Second, the authors call for addressing the idea of a just transition and the distributional impacts on labor in low-carbon transitions more systematically. They advocate greater recognition of the potential socioeconomic costs of decarbonizing policies, which can hinder popular support, and encourage energy justice researchers to engage more on labor issues.
The paper argues that a politicized framing of energy injustice and just energy transitions should encourage specific and localized energy policy decisions. In this way, justice analysis of an entire energy life cycle can help bridge the “bigger picture” of climate justice with the more micro-scale dimensions of energy justice and localized just transitions.

Seven Principles to Realize a Just Transition to a Low-carbon Economy

This report proposes seven basic policy principles to support just transitions in response to climate change and offers concrete ways to apply these principles in practice.


“Based on a critical review of former transitions, the authors distill seven basic principles for ensuring just transitions: actively encourage decarbonization; avoid creating carbon lock-in and more “losers” in these sectors; support affected regions; support workers, their families, and the wider community affected by closures or downscaling; clean up environmental damage and ensure that related costs are not transferred from the private to the public sector; address existing economic and social inequalities; and ensure an inclusive and transparent planning process.

These principles highlight the importance of supporting affected workers but place equal emphasis on ensuring environmental protection and restoration, diversifying industry and other economic activities, and tackling socioeconomic inequity (including gender inequality) in an active pursuit of decarbonization. The authors offer recommendations on how to implement each of these principles, arguing that the justness of a transition comes from pursuing each of these principles simultaneously and that failure to do so will result in a lack of necessary social and economic support. “