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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.

Assessing the Gender and Social Equity Dimensions of Energy Transitions

Through a systemic analysis of academic literature, this report explores the state of knowledge on how the diffusion of low-carbon technologies impacts gender and social equity.


There is a lack of dedicated research and knowledge on the gender and social equity implications of low-carbon energy transitions. This paper examines these justice implications through a systemic analysis of peer-reviewed literature.

The authors explore the general trends and interconnectedness of the positive and negative impacts of introducing low-carbon technologies, most of which are broadly related to economics. Poverty alleviation and energy self-sufficiency were the dominant positive impacts, while issues of land loss and displacement were the dominant negative ones. The authors explore the broader implications on female gender roles, poverty and employment, land loss, and (un)equal access through specific examples in the academic literature.

Based on their findings, they conclude that low-carbon energy systems are not inherently more inclusive or empowering than traditional energy systems. The outcome of a transition is not determined by the technology itself, but rather the ways in which the technology interplays with the existing sociocultural, socioeconomic, and institutional context. They emphasize the need for inclusive institutional arrangements that ensure a just process and provide general recommendations based on these needs.