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What is "Just Transition"?

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.

Detail

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.

Just Transition for All: Analytical Evidence

This brief includes nine short essays on a range of issues related to just transitions, including summaries of various tools and strategies and brief regional case studies.

Detail

This brief consists of short papers prepared for a breakout session of the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24) in March 2018. The papers examine various just transitions efforts around the world, including different approaches to green transitions, a case study of distributional impacts in Germany, and a summary of green coalitions and movements in the United States.

Several of the authors emphasize implementing social protections and promoting inclusion to ensure a just transition to a low-carbon economy. The document calls on countries to take urgent action to train workers in the skills needed for a greener economy and to provide them with social protections to facilitate the transition to new jobs. One author argues that a truly just transition cannot focus solely on unionized coal miners but must consider informal workers or service providers as well. Another essay classifies just transitions approaches in terms of their inclusiveness and ambition, offering a useful taxonomy for assessing them. Another author argues in favor of a “systems approach” to just transitions that would use not only sectoral data but also microeconomic, demographic, and social survey data to create a more holistic view of societies in transition.

Coal Transition in the Czech Republic

This case study analyzes the Czech Republic’s gradual coal transition, including the government’s efforts to phase out mining and restore damaged lands.

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This case study presents a detailed analysis of a gradual coal transition in the Czech Republic from 1990 to 2015. The political and social changes in 1989 led to an extensive economic transformation. The recession in heavy industry and its associated decrease in energy supply, along with environmental pressures, led the government to oversee a decline in coal production.

The study examines the Czech economy and key energy reforms between 1990 and 2015. The national government’s plan sought to restructure the electricity sector, moving away from coal in favor of renewables. The environmental reforms of 1991, which placed limits on six coal mining fields, sought to protect the environment and villages from further expansions of coal mines and, in effect, reduced national coal production.

In addition to discussing the negative impacts of coal mine privatization, the authors analyze the implications of the national government reforms and discuss various policy responses that aimed to mitigate the ecological and social impacts of the transition. Many of these efforts related to the rehabilitation and remediation of environmentally damaged lands. The authors suggest that the delay in regional support measures resulted in the social isolation of affected areas, characterized by low employment rates, standards of living, and economic performance.

Coal Transition in Poland

This case study presents two coal transition scenarios for Poland and offers policy recommendations to protect workers and support employment potential in vulnerable coal-producing areas.

Detail

This case study presents coal transition scenarios for Poland using two different models: a baseline scenario (business as usual) and a 2-degree scenario aiming for future energy mix that is compliant with the Paris Agreement. The paper includes detailed modeling of Poland’s future energy mix, coal output, coal consumption by sector, and employment in the coal sector through 2050 under these two scenarios. The business-as-usual scenario reflects historical trends and predicts a slower reduction in coal mining by 2030, although the local coal sector is already losing economic competitiveness. The 2-degree scenario, by contrast, suggests an acceleration of the coal phase-out and a steeper reduction in the coal workforce by 2030.

The latter portion of the paper focuses on labor market issues. The authors suggest that stronger efforts are required to protect workers and communities and to prepare for an impending transition. The paper recommends implementing vocational training and other assistance measures that encourage miners to remain in the workforce. They also emphasize the need to stimulate labor demand in coal-mining regions, including in industries where miners’ skill sets may be suitable, such as in construction and manufacturing.

Coal Transition in the United States

This report describes the U.S. shift away from coal, including its driving forces and policy measures to ease the transition.

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This report provides an analysis of the U.S. coal sector transformation over the last decade. It describes the decline of U.S. coal production after 2008 due to unfavorable market dynamics and a changing federal regulatory environment. It then discusses the shale gas revolution and the expansion of renewable sources of energy, which created competition with alternative fuels in utility sectors.

The report focuses on Obama-era environmental regulations, which had a significant impact on U.S. coal production between 2014 and 2016. The Obama administration’s decarbonization efforts, which set limits on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions, led to a decline in domestic demand for coal. Moreover, the federal extension of renewables tax credits enabled wind and solar to become competitive in the energy market.

This report examines recent distributional impacts of the coal sector transition and discusses the various policy measures that were introduced, including their successes and their failures. The author argues that the Trump administration’s rollback of environmental regulations and tax cuts for coal companies will not be enough to revive the coal sector and emphasizes the need to manage impacts on coal communities.

Coal Transition in the Netherlands

This report presents the Netherlands’ successful attempt to exit coal and explains how the oil crisis in the 1970s subsequently led to an energy-mixed economy.

Detail

This case study examines the coal transition in the Netherlands from 1965 to 1990 in the region of Limburg and discusses the reasons for the transition as well as its socioeconomic impacts. Due to market competition from oil imports and the domestic discovery of natural gas, the country decided to reduce its economic dependence on coal in favor of other energy sources.

The authors focus on the factors that made the transition possible, including the cooperation of labor unions, the presence of alternative employment opportunities (such as in the chemical sector), and particularly the conservative view of then Prime Minister Joop den Uyl, who was convinced that mining was inhumane. The unions foresaw an unfavorable future for coal miners and reached an agreement with state-owned companies for alternative employment. The study analyzes the effect of the measures adopted to accompany the transition. The authors focus on the government’s redevelopment strategies—such as the restructuring of the coal sector, with major mining companies transforming into chemical companies—and the development of new businesses.

The last two sections of the study discuss the return of coal as an imported energy source in the mid-1970s due to the oil crisis, as well as the country’s current struggle to stop coal consumption, which accounts for 12% to 13% of national energy consumption.

Coal Transition in the United Kingdom

This report highlights the main elements of the coal transition in the United Kingdom and discusses the government’s policies in response to the unintended consequences of the coal transition.

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This case study examines the United Kingdom’s coal transition, which began in the early 1980s amid unfavorable market conditions and the privatization of coal mines and power plants. A 2013 carbon tax, as well as the 2015 government decision to close unabated coal-fired power plants, accelerated the transition process, leading to a near complete phase-out of coal use.

The report analyses the socioeconomic impacts of the transition, focusing on unemployment, high electricity bills for the poor, and low wages for alternative jobs. The author also discusses the policy measures implemented to ease the transition and describes various financial streams, such as the European Union Structural funds, that helped finance the revitalization of coal regions.

The report evaluates those policy measures against their intended outcomes. The measures were considered economically successful (as they provided 180,000 alternative jobs) but failed to meet other social needs. Although they were never designed to be aligned with climate change policies, they have evolved through time in response to political pressures. Some of the measures, such as the welfare benefits for redundant workers, are well embedded in the United Kingdom’s economic model. The report, however, calls for enhanced planning and early warnings of closures in future transitions.

Coal Transition in Spain

This case study discusses the main features of the transition away from coal in Spain, including the driving forces, policy responses, and potentially negative socioeconomic effects.

Detail

This case study analyzes the policy-driven coal transition that occurred in Spain over the last two decades. The study describes the key role of coal in the Spanish economy and discusses the motives behind the coal transition, its impacts, and the policy measures that were introduced to mitigate such impacts.

Generally, market competition from cheap imported coal has triggered a downturn in Spanish coal production since 1993 and a decrease in employment in the coal sector. This report details how a plan signed by labor unions and the government in July 1997 to protect the future of coal miners, as well as a subsequent 2006–12 coal plan and EU legislation, have all provided a roadmap for Spain’s coal transition.

The report describes the positive and the negative effects of these policies, identifying lessons learned. It calls for greater collaboration among stakeholders to better understand the priorities and for the establishment of social funds to ensure better transition assistance and worker compensation.

Implementing Coal Transitions: Insights from Case Studies of Major Coal-consuming Economies

This report summarizes insights from the various workstreams of IDDRI’s Coal Transitions project, which seeks to develop feasible trajectories and policy guidance for deep transitions in major coal-producing countries.

Detail

This report summarizes key findings from the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations’ (IDDRI) Coal Transitions project, which seeks to support fact-based dialogue on the future of coal through analysis of past coal and industrial transitions. It reviews transition scenarios for six major coal-consuming economies (China, India, South Africa, Poland, Germany, and Australia) to analyze the global coal trade.

The author argues that coal transitions are already underway due to both climate and non-climate policy factors, that coal transitions are technically feasible and affordable, that past successes indicate just transitions for coal workers and communities are possible, and that coal transitions could strengthen global climate action and deliver other social and economic objectives.
The report concludes with recommendations for further research in order to better understand options related to local contexts and how an industry can limit its use of thermal and metallurgical coal. It emphasizes the importance of social dialogue as a condition for appropriately supporting workers and communities to manage the transition in a way that does not exacerbate existing fragilities.