Just transition

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Protestor in Melbourne calling for a just transition and decarbonisation

Just transition is a framework developed by the trade union movement[1] to encompass a range of social interventions needed to secure workers' rights and livelihoods when economies are shifting to sustainable production, primarily combating climate change and protecting biodiversity. In Europe, advocates for a just transition want to unite social and climate justice, for example, for coal workers in coal-dependent developing regions who lack employment opportunities beyond coal.[2]


In the past years, a number of organizations have deployed the concept of a Just Transition with respect to environmental and/or climate justice.[3]

With regards to climate change mitigation, the IPCC defines just transition as follows: "A set of principles, processes and practices that aim to ensure that no people, workers, places, sectors, countries or regions are left behind in the transition from a high-carbon to a low carbon economy."[4]


In the 1980s, "in the United States, Tony Mazzocchi of the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union proposed a "Superfund for Workers", which would compensate and retrain those who moved out of environmentally hazardous jobs. It's widely believed that Mazzocchi was the first to use the term just transition, and this superfund was meant to parallel the U.S. Superfund Act of 1980 – national legislation to tax corporations to clean up hazardous waste sites across the country".[5]

In policy[edit]

International policy[edit]

At the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, France, or COP 21, unions and just transition advocates convinced the Parties to include language regarding just transition and the creation of decent work in the Paris Agreement's preamble.[6][7][8][9]

At the 2018 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Katowice, Poland, or COP 24, the Heads of State and Government adopted the Solidarity and Just Transition Silesia Declaration, highlighting the importance of just transition as mentioned in the Paris Agreement, the ILO's Guidelines, and the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.[10] The Declaration encourages all relevant United Nations agencies to proceed with its implementation and consider the issue of just transition when drafting and implementing parties' nationally determined contributions, or NDCs.[11][12][13]

At COP26, the European Investment Bank announced a set of just transition common principles agreed upon with multilateral development banks, which also align with the Paris Agreement. The principles refer to focusing financing on the transition to net zero carbon economies, while keeping socioeconomic effects in mind, along with policy engagement and plans for inclusion and gender equality, all aiming to deliver long-term economic transformation.[14][15]

The African Development Bank, Asian Development Bank, Islamic Development Bank, Council of Europe Development Bank, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, New Development Bank, and Inter-American Development Bank are among the multilateral development banks that have vowed to uphold the principles of climate change mitigation and a Just Transition. The World Bank Group also contributed.[14][16][17]

In 2022, two countries - Indonesia and Vietnam - were invited to take part in a Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP) framework which aims at mobilizing more than USD 35 billion of public and private financing to support a just energy transition in the two countries.[18]

European Union mechanism[edit]

In the European Union, the concerns facing workers in fossil fuel industries are addressed by the Just Transition mechanism in the European Green Deal.[19] The funding and mechanism helps fossil fuel-dependent regions within the European Union to transition to a greener economy.[20]

A just transition from coal is supported by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.[21]

Climate litigation[edit]

A 2021 review of legal theories for climate litigation and a just transition, recommended using accountability litigation against companies in industries that would lose work.[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Climate Frontlines Briefing – No Jobs on a Dead Planet" (PDF). International Trade Union Confederation. March 2015. Retrieved 27 March 2020.
  2. ^ "Just Transition Platform". European Commission – European Commission. Retrieved 19 August 2020.
  3. ^ "Mapping Just Transition(s) to a Low Carbon World" (PDF). UNRISD. December 2018.
  4. ^ IPCC, 2022: Annex I: Glossary [van Diemen, R., J.B.R. Matthews, V. Möller, J.S. Fuglestvedt, V. Masson-Delmotte, C.  Méndez, A. Reisinger, S. Semenov (eds)]. In IPCC, 2022: Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change. Contribution of Working Group III to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [P.R. Shukla, J. Skea, R. Slade, A. Al Khourdajie, R. van Diemen, D. McCollum, M. Pathak, S. Some, P. Vyas, R. Fradera, M. Belkacemi, A. Hasija, G. Lisboa, S. Luz, J. Malley, (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK and New York, NY, USA. doi: 10.1017/9781009157926.020
  5. ^ Mah, Alice (30 May 2023). "The Labour Movement Origins of "Just Transition"". Our Times (Spring 2023). Retrieved 7 September 2023.
  6. ^ "Paris Agreement" (PDF). United Nations 2015. 2015. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  7. ^ Smith, Samantha (May 2017). "Just Transition" (PDF). International Trade Union Confederation. Retrieved 17 March 2020.
  8. ^ "What is the Paris Agreement?". UNFCCC. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  9. ^ "Find out more about COP21". COP 21 Paris. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  10. ^ "Solidarity and Just Transition Silesia Declaration" (PDF). COP 21 – Katowice 2018. Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 April 2021. Retrieved 3 May 2020.
  11. ^ "Unions support Solidarity and Just Transition Silesia Declaration". ITUC. 3 December 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  12. ^ "Katowice Climate Conference". United Nations. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  13. ^ "Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs)". UNFCCC. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  14. ^ a b Bank, European Investment (6 July 2022). EIB Group Sustainability Report 2021. European Investment Bank. ISBN 978-92-861-5237-5.
  15. ^ "ENER – Item". ec.europa.eu. Retrieved 27 July 2022.
  16. ^ "Multilateral Development Banks". African Development Bank – Building today, a better Africa tomorrow. 12 April 2019. Retrieved 27 July 2022.
  17. ^ "Collective Climate Ambition – A Joint Statement at COP26 by the Multilateral Development Banks". Asian Development Bank. 5 November 2021. Retrieved 27 July 2022.
  18. ^ UNDP (2024). "Indonesia Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP)".
  19. ^ "The Just Transition Mechanism: making sure no one is left behind". European Commission.
  20. ^ "Financing the green transition: The European Green Deal Investment Plan and Just Transition Mechanism". ec.europa.eu. Retrieved 14 November 2020.
  21. ^ "The EBRD's just transition initiative". European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
  22. ^ Randall S. Abate, "Anthropocene Accountability Litigation: Confronting Common Enemies to Promote a Just Transition," Columbia Journal of Environmental Law 46, no. Symposium Issue (2021): 225-292

Further reading[edit]

  • Stevis, Dimitris (2021) Labour Unions and Environmental Justice: The Trajectory and Politics of Just Transition. In Coolsaet, B. (ed) Environmental Justice: Key Issues, London and New York: Earthscan/Routledge
  • Bell, Karen (2020), Working-Class Environmentalism: An Agenda for a Just and Fair Transition to Sustainability, London: Palgrave
  • Hampton, Paul (2015), Workers and Trade Unions for Climate Solidarity, London and New York: Routledge
  • Morena, Edouard, Dunja Krause and Dimitris Stevis (2020), Just Transitions: Social Justice in the Shift Towards a Low-Carbon World, London: Pluto
  • Räthzel, Nora and David Uzzell (2013), Trade Unions in the Green Economy: Working for the Environment, London and New York: Earthscan/Routledge
  • United Nations Global Compact, International Chamber of Shipping, International Transport Workers' Federation: Mapping a Maritime Just Transition (2022) https://www.ics-shipping.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/Position-Paper-Mapping-a-Maritime-Just-Transition-for-Seafarers-%E2%80%93-Maritime-Just-Transition-Task-Force-2022-OFFICIAL.pdf

External links[edit]