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What is "Just Transition"?

Just transition? Strategic framing and the challenges facing coal dependent communities

The author highlights the importance of strategic framing for policies and unpacks how the reframing of the issue, scale, and place of a coal-mine closure to deliver a “just transition” exacerbated the local sense of perceived injustice.


Using an example from the Latrobe Valley in Australia, the author uses the paper to deconstruct how a series of strategic reframings were applied to a transition in a coal community and how they exacerbated the local sense of perceived injustice. The top-down strategy adopted deployed a series of reframings: defining the issue as ‘transition’, defining the scale of intervention as ‘regional’, and then creating a bespoke region as the arena of policy action. A multilevel governance arrangement, created to plan for the transition, was heralded by the policymakers as building local consensus and empowering local communities to take responsibility for the future. The author argues that, in practice, these moves excluded directly affected local constituencies, exacerbated the pre-existing local sense of injustice, and enabled redistributive funding to be diverted to unaffected adjacent areas.

The author argues that the deliberative ‘transitioning’ approach described in this paper failed because it sought to side-step local fears about the likely impacts of change. It deployed the technologies of governance—reframing, reterritorialization, faux deliberative engagement, and quantitative gymnastics—to make the problem of the industrial valley appear unproblematic. The conclusion stresses that progress on closing high emissions fossil-fuel activities requires a more sympathetic and politically astute understanding of place and the situation of affected communities.

The author also highlights how the strategic scaling of policy problems aims to make it easier for the dominant actors to control the policy process and shape the perceptions of the winners and losers of change. This paper contributes to the understanding of the strategic reframing of issues and scales of governance by highlighting their implications for the territorial arenas of policy action, which this paper calls “strategic place framing”. The paper advances the argument that when strategic place frames conflict with accepted territorial boundaries, they invite opposition and resistance, thereby limiting, to some extent, the potential of strategic issue and scale framing because of the political durability of territorial place frames.

Just Transitions: Lessons Learned in South Africa and Eastern Europe

This commentary summarizes critical elements of case studies on just transitions to help guide future research, and includes lessons learned in ongoing just transitions work in South Africa and Eastern Europe.


This commentary summarizes a workshop held by the Climate Investment Funds (CIF) and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on just transitions in South Africa and Eastern Europe. More case studies on sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and developing Asia could shed light on just transitions in countries with fewer economic resources and more limited social safety nets. The commentary includes a table summarizing critical elements of case studies to help identify key insights and best practices in future research.

In South Africa, just transitions are urgent because market and policy signals indicate an inevitable decline of coal, yet a transition could harm workers and communities dependent on coal mining. Policies intended to elevate renewable energy in the country have also failed to support energy access for black communities or address issues of racial injustice. The author notes that just transitions in South Africa need to address issues of inclusivity and power relations.

Central and Eastern Europe is a focal point for just transitions as many countries in the region anticipate phasing out coal and emissions-intensive industries in the coming decades. This commentary cites several positive examples of community engagement and local participation in just transitions. However, case studies indicate that more should be done to boost input at the local level.

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.

Reading Radical Environmental Justice through a Political Ecology Lens

This article provides a review of radical environmental justice through a political ecology lens to assess the potential for cross-fertilization between these two fields.


This article provides a review of radical environmental justice (EJ) through a political ecology (PE) lens. The authors suggest areas for cross-fertilization with respect to the four forms of justice detailed in the radical environmental justice framework: distributive justice, recognition, procedural justice, and (more recently) capabilities. While these concepts are not explicitly discussed in the context of just transitions, these lessons and insights can be applied to the field.

With respect to recognition, the authors illustrate how this kind of justice can often result in stereotyping and paternalism in both EJ and PE. To avoid this, they recommend an increased focus on “sense of justice” and “critical knowledge production” to ensure that the heterogeneity of communities is accurately reflected and that community members have the knowledge to formulate and express their views.

In addition, they find that the EJ literature fails to explicitly discuss power theories despite its emphasis on procedural justice and the associated topic of participation. Thus, they argue the radical EJ field could benefit from discussing participation and engaging with the power theories found in prominent PE literature.

Framework Development for ‘Just Transition’ in Coal Producing Jurisdictions

This academic paper provides a comparative analysis of transition policies employed in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany; Alberta, Canada; and Victoria, Australia, and offers a framework for implementing just transitions in coal-dependent jurisdictions.


The rhetoric of a just transition is central to energy and development policy discourse, yet recent studies have identified substantial challenges to its implementation. This paper provides a theoretical and practical comparative analysis of transition policies employed in three first-world jurisdictions dependent on coal: North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany, Alberta in Canada, and Victoria in Australia. These jurisdictions adopted different approaches based on their varying experiences with prior economic transitions, understandings of sustainable development, and government priorities and support.

The success of these policies is evaluated in terms of social dialogue, re-employability, re-training, and state welfare, all of which the European Trade Union Institute considers critical factors of a just transition. The authors identify which measures overcame key challenges in the achievement of a just transition and successfully ameliorated the socioeconomic well-being of coal-dependent workers and communities.

Based on these findings, the authors propose a framework for achieving a just transition in coal-dependent jurisdictions. This framework is broken into two phases, pre-transition and transition, illustrating the importance of planning and proactive social dialogue. The framework also identifies the important role of governments in assisting workers and communities in navigating the transition process and in supporting new and emerging low carbon industries in the context of sustainable development. The paper concludes by recommending topics for further study, including coal transitions in developing country contexts, consideration of a wider range of impacts, and testing of the proposed framework.