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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.

Who Needs a Just Transition?

This commentary introduces the just transitions concept, summarizes its importance in meeting climate and social equity goals, and emphasizes the need to define the term more clearly and increase its appeal.


This short commentary introduces the just transitions concept and emphasizes its role in helping to meet climate and justice goals. It briefly outlines the origins of the term in the labor movement and its later adoption by the international climate community. The commentary notes that climate change will create unavoidable social and economic changes that will be distributed unevenly, underscoring the need for a proactive approach.

The authors acknowledge that the term “just transitions” is unfamiliar to many, while to others it suggests a threat to their livelihoods and way of life. A failure to better engage with labor unions, threatened business sectors, and governments has created resistance to decarbonization plans. However, the authors argue that just transitions can provide an organizing principle for dialogue and engagement, as well as a means of securing buy-in for climate action.

Finally, the commentary notes the relative lack of useful guidance on implementing just transitions, and the need for more concrete tools and strategies. A careful review of lessons learned about implementation, as well as practical plans and resources for policymakers and practitioners, will be critical in helping to advance just transitions.

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.