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What is "Just Transition"?

What Kind of Governance for What Kind of Equity? Towards a Theorization of Justice in Water Governance

This article reviews the literature and concepts related to water and hydrosocial relations, water governance, and spatial scale, along with equity, justice, and human rights, with a focus on Bolivia.

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The author conducts a critical review of the literature on water, in terms of its relationship to social relations and environmental justice. The author illustrates these theories through the case of water pollution in Bolivia’s Huanuni Valley resulting from mining activity, along with its social and environmental effects.

The author’s analysis of water and hydrosocial relations reveals that water and its management must be understood in the context of its social history and political character. He argues that water reflects and produces relationships of uneven social power. The author also analyzes the literature on water governance, with particular attention to spatial scale. The author argues that the decision on the scale of action for a water governance policy is not politically neutral: many policymakers choose to focus on the watershed level. To correct the scalar assumptions common in water governance policies, the author argues that the notion of the “waterscape”, or the view of water as a socio-natural entity, would better account for the relationship between water and society. In his review of the concept of equity in water governance, the author points out that the typical association of the concept with distributional impacts, such as access to water and exposure to pollution, does not account for the historical processes of social exclusion. The author also challenges the concept of the human right to water by suggesting that it has the potential to contradict the collective rights to water of some indigenous groups.

The author concludes the analysis by applying the concept of hydrosocial relations to the case of water pollution in Bolivia’s Huanuni Valley. He argues that while the formal law for water rights is progressive in Bolivia, water access favors the powerful and privileged in practice. To overcome this situation, the author suggests a greater focus on environmental justice and ecological governance that views water and society as natural, social, and political.

Enhancing the Role of National Development Banks in Supporting Climate-Smart Urban Infrastructure

This paper focuses on enhancing the role of national development banks in accelerating investment in climate-smart urban infrastructure.

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Because cities are essential to climate mitigation and uniquely vulnerable to climate impacts, there are compelling and wide-ranging reasons for them to invest in low-emissions and “climate-smart” infrastructure. However, cities face various barriers to implementing such changes, including pressure to address infrastructure deficits and improve basic services. In this context, the authors explore how national development banks (NDBs) can support climate-smart investments and address cities’ larger systemic challenges in their efforts to contribute to the Paris Agreement goals and broader development objectives.

The authors emphasize the comparative advantages of NDBs in supporting climate-smart urban infrastructure. They recommend several opportunities to enhance NDB support for such investments. Some of these recommendations are directed at NDBs, while others require action by national and local governments, bilateral cooperation agencies, and multilateral development banks or international financial institutions.

Indigenous Struggles, Environmental Justice, and Community Capabilities

This article discusses how Indigenous peoples’ struggles for environmental justice have redefined the justice discourse by incorporating concern for nature, culture, and communities into a range of demands for equity, recognition, and participation.

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This article examines how the concept of justice is being used by various environmental groups and discusses the “capabilities-based approach” to justice used by Indigenous communities in their struggle over various environmental issues. It then presents two case studies from Arizona and southern Chile to illustrate the different conceptions of environmental justice among Indigenous communities around the world.

The authors first discuss scholars and activists’ historical conception of justice and explain the capabilities-based approach to environmental justice. They criticize an earlier focus on equity as the core principle of environmental justice, which they argue should go beyond fixing mere distributive and procedural inequities to enabling communities to thrive culturally.

They present two case studies on Indigenous environmental justice movements and argue that their conceptions of environmental justice offer a broad, integrated approach to development. They conclude that such an approach allows for diversity and provides an “integrative way” to understand environmental justice concepts from an Indigenous perspective, which includes a concern for the basic functioning of communities, their culture, and their relationship with nature.

Just Transitions: Local Lessons and Global Insights from South Africa

This Energy 360 podcast on just transitions in South Africa provides local lessons and broader global insights from a country that has a long history of engaging with just transitions in the context of high levels of unemployment, inequality, poverty, and a high dependency on coal.

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This podcast provides an easily accessible overview of the implications of just transitions in South Africa’s energy transition. The interview format allows a range of issues to be covered drawing on many years of experience within the energy sector, as well as a recent case study on just transitions in South Africa.

Topics covered include the importance of just transitions in a country that has some of the highest levels of inequality, unemployment, and poverty in the world. South Africa is also dependent on coal for the vast majority of its energy, particularly electricity, despite a substantial renewable energy procurement program. It is in this context that issues of sustainable development, social dialogue, financing a just transition, social transformation, geographic disparities, and skills development are discussed.

Environmental Remediation and Infrastructure Policies Supporting Workers and Communities in Transition

This report reviews U.S. federal policies related to environmental remediation and infrastructure spending that can help support workers in fossil fuel–dependent communities.

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This report examines major federal policies related to environmental remediation and infrastructure spending, highlighting evidence of the effectiveness of these programs in terms of costs, job creation, and positive externalities. The author identifies programs that could support the communities and workers who are negatively affected by an energy transition. The author measures the cost-effectiveness of federal spending on programs to clean up “Superfund” sites, cap orphaned oil and gas wells, improve water infrastructure, construct and maintain highways, and install broadband capacity.

One section of the paper covers environmental remediation, including the closure of coal mines and nuclear or oil and gas sites. The paper notes the positive spillover effects, such as increased property values, of many environmental remediation programs. A second section covers infrastructure programs that support construction and related industries. The author notes that economists disagree on whether federal spending on infrastructure, for example highway construction, creates more economic activity or simply redistributes it.

Both environmental remediation and infrastructure programs can contribute to a just transition. However, the author warns of potential environmental justice concerns that can result from federal spending in these areas, including post-remediation gentrification and worsening air pollution in minority communities due to transportation infrastructure.

Coal Kills: Research and Dialogue for a Just Transition

This report describes the environmental and health tolls of coal mining in South Africa and provides recommendations to move forward with a just transition.

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This compilation of research from various institutions details the environmental and social harm caused by South Africa’s coal industry. The report provides detailed analysis of the social, gender, and environmental impacts of coal mining and identifies the failures of South Africa’s social and environmental policy frameworks.

Coal regions such as Highveld and Mpumalanga, which contain the largest fertile lands in the country and were once an important source of fresh water, have been reduced to “toxic lands.” Several essays in the report criticize the government’s failure to regulate air pollution, calling for tighter regulatory oversight and a new focus on sustainability founded in economic, social, and environmental justice. The report criticizes the lack of enforcement of the Social and Labor Plans (SLPs) that coal companies must submit to win mining licenses. The Centre for Applied Legal Studies outlines the absence of community involvement or transparency in such plans, which often means communities have no access to them. Two organizations, groundWork and Friends of the Earth South Africa, call for a just transition as the only way forward for South Africans. An appendix in the report includes recommended links to reports and studies by other environmental groups.

Chile’s Pathway to Green Growth: Measuring Progress at Local Level

This report examines the challenges and opportunities associated with green growth in Chile and proposes a strategy with detailed indicators for assessing the progress of local and regional green growth initiatives.

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This report on Chile is part of a series that explores the impacts of climate change and emission reduction activities at the local level. In examining local initiatives in Chile, the authors provide insight into how economic and employment development in this and similar carbon-intensive regions can support both low-carbon transitions and growth.

The report details Chile’s socioeconomic context and its various environmental challenges, including climate change, air pollution, soil and water contamination, waste management, and loss of biodiversity. While the concept of green growth is still nascent in Chile, the report identifies initial steps it can take and details a strategy for future efforts based on three pillars: formulating strategies for making various economic sectors environmentally sustainable, implementing economic instruments and other complementary mechanisms, and fostering innovation.

The report emphasizes the need to assess the impacts of climate change and climate mitigation measures at local and regional levels, not just the national level. It explores examples of local green growth initiatives in Chile, which successfully balanced economic and environmental concerns and, in some cases, social concerns. It concludes with a set of indicators that can be used to assess the progress of local initiatives.

Green Jobs and a Just Transition for Climate Action in Asia and the Pacific

This report discusses the potential for green job creation and a just transition in the Asia-Pacific region.

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This report discusses the potential for green job creation and sustainable development in the Asia-Pacific region in the context of just transitions. It outlines how the region could accelerate this transformation by creating clean energy jobs that contribute to climate change mitigation—provided certain policy measures are put in place.

The report explores some of the opportunities and challenges of green job creation in the Asia-Pacific, in particular in the climate-vulnerable Pacific islands and in the textile and garment industry, a polluting sector that is nonetheless an important source of women’s employment and foreign investment. It then explores lessons learned from just transition pilot programs in the Philippines and Uruguay.

The report groups its recommendations for how to address the challenges of a just transition in Asia-Pacific into five categories: policy and institutions, training and capacity building, social dialogues and collaboration, awareness raising, and financing.