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.