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What is "Just Transition"?

Just Transition Concepts and Relevance for Climate Action

This report explains the origins and evolution of just transitions, and offers a framework to represent the range of definitions as well as underlying ideologies and approaches.


This report outlines the origins of just transitions in the US labor movement, the later adoption of the concept by the environmental and climate justice movements, and its role in international climate negotiations. The authors note that the term “just transitions” evokes a range of responses, from enthusiasm to confusion to outright skepticism, suggesting the need for a clear definition.

The paper presents a framework to capture the range of definitions and interpretations of just transitions. One key dimension is scope, including both distributional impacts—or who and what is affected in transitions—as well as intention (the ideological preference between reforming or transforming existing political and economic systems through just transitions). The other dimension in the framework is social inclusion, or the range of recognition and procedural justice for various groups. The framework does not seek to identify a single “correct” definitions of just transitions, but rather captures a range of ideologies and approaches to the concept.

A final section of the paper suggests that the next stage of just transitions work will be to advance solutions and to apply lessons learned. The authors list several priorities for future research including concrete tools and strategies, more case studies of developing countries, more effective social engagement, and new financing methods.

Supporting Just Transitions in South Africa: A Case Study

This case study explores key dimensions of just transitions and draws lessons from the Climate Investment Funds (CIF)’s contributions to the energy transition, the expansion of renewable energy, and the implications for workers and communities in South Africa.


This case study explores key dimensions of just transition in South Africa, which has a long engagement with the concept and was one of the first countries to include an explicit reference to just transitions in its Nationally Determined Contribution. The case study reflects on the contributions of the Climate Investment Funds (CIF), through its partner multilateral development banks, to the energy transition in South Africa.

The document uses the just transitions framework developed by the CIF and the Center for Strategic and International Studies to explore issues of social inclusion and distributional justice in South Africa’s energy transition. It provides a broader review of South Africa’s energy transition implications for national planning, and discusses social inclusion, financing, Covid-19 recovery programs, skills development and geographic disparities.

Green Transitions, Just Transitions? Broadening and Deepening Justice

This academic paper presents a typology of justice (social and environmental) and of the geographies of justice (scale and scope), exploring their combined implications for just transitions.


This paper warns that well-intentioned practices can have negative impacts and seeks to better understand the variability and possible unintentional outcomes of just transitions. To do so, the authors examine the typologies of justice (social and environmental) the geographies of justice (scale and scope) and then bring these variables together to explore their implications for just transitions.

The authors advocate for a world in which global rules require and enable transnational and local justice. They conclude that such rules will have to be flexible enough to accommodate local dynamics and needs but strong enough to prevent any local elites from claiming the exclusive right to determine how global rules will be implemented.

What is the “Just Transition”?

This academic paper provides a critical review of the overlapping disciplines of climate, energy, and environmental justice and proposes a just transitions framework to encompass these three disciplines using the concept of “legal geography.”


This academic paper provides a high-level, critical review of the overlapping disciplines of climate, energy, and environmental (CEE) justice. The authors examine the limitations of CEE research and argue that justice scholars should work together to present a united perspective on just transitions to increase public understanding and acceptance.

They present a framework for just transitions that borrows from the emerging area of “legal geography,” which allows for interdisciplinary study of the concept of justice as it applies across space and time. This framework integrates the separate CEE justice disciplines and accounts for different forms of justice (distributional, procedural, and restorative, as well as recognition and cosmopolitanism), the space where injustices occur, and the pace of the transition.