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What is "Just Transition"?

Politicizing Energy Justice and Energy System Transitions: Fossil Fuel Divestment and a “Just Transition”

This paper seeks to broaden conceptualizations of energy justice to help policymakers and citizens identify the unequal distribution of costs, risks, and vulnerabilities across energy lifecycles and ensure a transition to a more just and democratized energy system.


This paper seeks to expand the current concept of energy justice across entire energy lifecycles—supply chains, production, distribution, and waste—to better illustrate the injustices of the current energy system so policymakers and citizens can identify the unequal distribution of costs, risks, and vulnerabilities across energy lifecycles. The authors identify two key areas that require greater scrutiny.

First, they call for greater recognition of politics and power dynamics. They contend that the recent divestment movement has enabled broad democratic involvement in institutional investment decisions that could have been disruptive. That movement expands “energy justice” beyond issues of the climate injustice of burning of fossil fuels to include the negative impacts of extraction, refining, production, and distribution of energy—thereby forcing responsibility onto a new set of actors.

Second, the authors call for addressing the idea of a just transition and the distributional impacts on labor in low-carbon transitions more systematically. They advocate greater recognition of the potential socioeconomic costs of decarbonizing policies, which can hinder popular support, and encourage energy justice researchers to engage more on labor issues.
The paper argues that a politicized framing of energy injustice and just energy transitions should encourage specific and localized energy policy decisions. In this way, justice analysis of an entire energy life cycle can help bridge the “bigger picture” of climate justice with the more micro-scale dimensions of energy justice and localized just transitions.