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What is "Just Transition"?

Insights from historical cases of transition: Background paper for the EBRD just transition initiative

The report suggests a series of considerations for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to allow for the integration of just transition considerations into its decarbonization operations, using historical evidence from other deep structural changes.


The authors seek to offer insights into how transitions impact people, economies, and the environment, as well as the extent of the effectiveness of different kinds of responses including the impacts of not responding. Moreover, it provides useful considerations related to the needs of those who lose out in society, while addressing overall concerns about inequalities in societies affected by deep structural changes. The report was used to inform EBRD’s approach to just transitions, as set out in the document “The EBRD Just Transition Initiative”.

The authors highlight that without measures to promote a “just” transition, resistance will likely undermine its pace. They draw inferences from other deep structural transitions, such as the steel industries in the United Kingdom (U.K.) and Newcastle, Australia, as well as the gold industry in Free State Province, South Africa, to offer insights into what to expect from a green transition.

The authors suggest a series of considerations for EBRD’s operational response to a just transition in order to create viable short-term and long-term solutions for local populations who are affected. Notably, they point out the need for strategic planning for impacted communities, governance structures, and state capacity to implement just transition actions, along with a holistic approach to regional economic development.

Environmental Remediation and Infrastructure Policies Supporting Workers and Communities in Transition

This report reviews U.S. federal policies related to environmental remediation and infrastructure spending that can help support workers in fossil fuel–dependent communities.


This report examines major federal policies related to environmental remediation and infrastructure spending, highlighting evidence of the effectiveness of these programs in terms of costs, job creation, and positive externalities. The author identifies programs that could support the communities and workers who are negatively affected by an energy transition. The author measures the cost-effectiveness of federal spending on programs to clean up “Superfund” sites, cap orphaned oil and gas wells, improve water infrastructure, construct and maintain highways, and install broadband capacity.

One section of the paper covers environmental remediation, including the closure of coal mines and nuclear or oil and gas sites. The paper notes the positive spillover effects, such as increased property values, of many environmental remediation programs. A second section covers infrastructure programs that support construction and related industries. The author notes that economists disagree on whether federal spending on infrastructure, for example highway construction, creates more economic activity or simply redistributes it.

Both environmental remediation and infrastructure programs can contribute to a just transition. However, the author warns of potential environmental justice concerns that can result from federal spending in these areas, including post-remediation gentrification and worsening air pollution in minority communities due to transportation infrastructure.

A Systemic Review of the Key Elements of a Just Transition for Fossil Fuel Workers

This paper identifies key elements of a just transition for fossil fuel workers and characterizes these elements according to a preexisting justice framework.


In recognition of the disparate definitions of a just transition, this paper synthesizes the scholarly literature to identify its various elements. Through their review, the authors also seek to identify the field’s theoretical and empirical knowledge gaps. They specifically focus on the effect of bold climate action on fossil-fuel workers and their communities.

The systemic literature review includes 33 articles from different academic fields. The literature tends to focus on coal workers (as opposed to other fossil fuel workers) in Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries and is largely normative and descriptive. Collectively, these articles emphasize 17 key elements of a just transition. The authors briefly describe each of these elements and characterize them according to the Heffron and McCauley’s “JUST” framework of legal geography (i.e., distributional, procedural, restorative, recognition-based, and cosmopolitanism-based justices, as well as spatial scales and timeframe). They show how theoretical concepts such as forms of justice forms relate to specific strategies for just transitions.