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What is "Just Transition"?

A Discussion of Systemic Challenges for a Just Transition towards a Low Carbon Economy

This brief discusses structural problems in South Africa’s economy and proposes an alternative model that can support the country’s sustainable development and environmental goals.

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This brief presents a conceptual definition of a “just transition” and related concepts within the context of the current South African political-economic model. The author highlights the structural dysfunctions of this model and how it is failing to achieve developmental and environmental sustainability. The author discusses the opportunity for a new developmental approach centered around just transitions and highlights policy questions that are important to ensuring climate adaptation and mitigation efforts to promote economic democracy.

The author proposes that South Africa abandon its current market-led economic model and adopt a new one led by the state. The new model would involve labor-intensive industrialization that moves away from extractive models and addresses the needs of local and regional markets. The author examines potential strategies and enabling conditions for ensuring that economic activities support a just transition and overcome various challenges in the context of South Africa. The brief concludes with a call for a new economic growth indicator—one that can measure growth through education, housing, health, access to services, or happiness and well-being.

Just Transitions: Progress to Date and Challenges Ahead

This commentary focuses on gaps in knowledge and key research questions related to just transitions, identifying eight areas that merit more research and policy guidance.

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This commentary summarizes a workshop held by the Climate Investment Funds (CIF) and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on just transitions. It identifies eight topics that merit new research and practical guidance. Several of these themes center on implementation. Most case studies focus on Western countries, but case studies and guidance should account for the political, economic, social, and environmental context in the Global South. Just transitions proponents should also focus on power dynamics and political economy issues, to identify potential blockers and enablers.

The authors note that cities, regional governments, and local actors are often left out of planning processes. The commentary suggests that workers in the informal sector should have greater prominence in just transitions plans. Social protections and worker assistance should also account for the needs of women as well as indigenous people and ethnic minorities.

The commentary identifies critical questions related to financing a just transition. It notes the importance of place-based investment for affected regions, as well as the need for new financing instruments to meet the scale of the climate challenge. Although private investors have a key role to play in financing just transitions, there is more work to be done on educating investors on just transitions principles, especially in terms of social as opposed to environmental goals.

Incorporating Just Transition Strategies in Developing Country Nationally Determined Contributions

This report examines how developing countries can incorporate just transition principles into their revised Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to enable more ambitious and equitable emissions reduction strategies.

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This report explores how low- and middle-income countries can incorporate just transitions principles into their revised Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the Paris Agreement goals. Writing for an intended audience of policymakers involved in drafting NDCs for developing countries, the authors explain the evolution of the just transitions concept and provide guidance on incorporating just transition language into NDCs. They suggest a timeline for each stage of the process and identify the resources available to assist in implementation.

Given the common perception that the just transitions concept is mainly relevant to developed countries, this report aims to link just transitions to the circumstances and needs of low- and middle-income countries. The report presents a brief overview of the just transition concept, its evolution and how it became embedded in the UN climate process during the Paris Agreement. The authors explain the importance of incorporating just transitions into NDCs. They call for countries to undertake labor market reforms, identify sectors that will be affected by climate change policies, and engage with all stakeholders to address those impacts.

The authors also present a just transitions “toolbox” developed by the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24), organizing suggestions and best practices into three groups: transition of the labor market, sustainable production and consumption, and inclusive transitions.

Principles for a Just Transition in Agriculture

This report stresses the need to include marginalized groups such as women and migrant workers in transitions from industrialized agriculture to agroecology practices.

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This report promotes the global transition from resource-intensive industrialized agriculture to agroecology. It recommends governments and local communities collaborate to address world hunger, gender injustice, workers’ rights, and smallholder participation within their efforts to decrease the agriculture sector’s climate impacts. The authors provide a list of policy recommendations to achieve these climate and equity goals and brief examples of effective and ineffective policies.

The authors argue that this transition must minimize disruption to farmers’ lives and include traditionally marginalized groups such as women and migrant workers. Such a transition must incorporate an inclusive and participatory planning process, comprehensive policy frameworks, social protection, and guarantees of positive opportunities for affected communities to ensure their acceptance of and participation in the transition.

If appropriately done, such a transition can provide numerous benefits. More specifically, it could help decarbonize the agricultural sector, introduce sustainable farming practices (which can increase crop yield and resilience to climate change), alleviate world hunger, provide social protections for women and migrant workers, and decrease the control and influence of agribusiness.

Guiding Principles & Lessons Learnt for a Just Energy Transition in the Global South

This report suggests eight principles for measuring justice dimensions of energy transition processes in developing countries and applies this rubric to twelve countries in the Global South.

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This report discusses the various stakeholder narratives of “just energy transitions” and their claims to justice. The authors promote transformative alliances among these stakeholders to align their sustainable development strategies. They offer a set of eight principles to encourage and assess justice dimensions of energy transition processes in developing countries.

Using the proposed principles and their respective indicators, the authors evaluate twelve countries: China, India, Nepal, the Philippines, Vietnam, Fiji, Morocco, South Africa, Tanzania, Costa Rica, Jamaica, and Mexico. These countries were identified based on justice terminology within their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement. Performance among these countries was generally strongest in terms of their ambitious targets regarding climate and the alignment of their NDCs with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. These countries generally scored lower with respect to the socioeconomic dimension—such as ensuring or fostering “decent work and resilience,” “social equity,” and “gender equality”—and even lower in regard to the political dimension.

The paper concludes that countries claiming to be pioneers of just energy transitions do not necessarily perform better in terms of the social and political dimension, nor do those who claim to be pioneers regarding justice necessarily lead when it comes to climate ambition. The authors offer recommendations specific to each of the twelve countries and conclude with broadly applicable policy recommendations to better apply justice to energy transitions.