Blogs and Think Pieces
One reason why climate change is such a complex and fascinating issue is that it affects everyone everywhere. It simultaneously touches upon a wide range of interests, both private and public. Within the climate negotiations space, Just Transition is a contentious issue for the various actors involved, primarily states and firms, as well as NGOs, social movements and trade unions that do their best to monitor and influence the negotiation outcomes.
In his recent think piece published in the Just Transition(s) Online Forum, Tadzio Müller questions the "pitfalls" of the Just Transition narrative and argues that it risks wasting precious time in the fight against climate change. As someone who has worked with the labour movement on this concept and its narrative and strategies for more than a decade, I would like to offer some alternative reflections.
Rapid climate action is urgently needed to put the world on track for limiting global warming to 2°C above pre-industrial levels. Leading scientists suggest that we need to bend the emissions curve significantly by 2020 if globally agreed temperature goals are to remain attainable. So is the Just Transition debate just a waste of time? This piece takes a critical look at pitfalls in the ongoing discussions.
Tackling the imminent impacts of climate change will take a profound transformation that is able not only to accelerate decarbonization but also to overcome entrenched inequalities that leave people who least contributed to climate change at the greatest risk from its impacts. Linking the concepts of Just Transition and transformative change could present a progressive way forward.
Around the globe, the shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources is accelerating. The economics behind this trend are simple to understand: between 2010 and 2017 solar, wind and renewable energy prices have fallen precipitously. In fact, they have fallen so fast that many of these technologies are now on a par with, if not more competitive than, fossil fuels. Although the benefits of cheaper and cleaner energy are undeniable, it is important to consider the many social and political challenges that need to be addressed if green transitions are to be effective and equitable. This think piece looks at the case of India to discuss how green jobs can become more decent and how to manage change in states that have depended on fossil fuels for their growth.
New Zealand is about to embark on a transition to a low-carbon economy. It’s one of the most important transitions we will make, and it has to be done well. Our lives literally depend on it.
Reliant on heavy industry and coal-fuelled electricity, South Africa is one of the most carbon intense economies in the world. The Government has made commitments to reduce carbon emissions but is simultaneously promoting the expansion of coal. As resistance to coal is growing, a transformative approach to Just Transition has the potential to overcome differences that currently constrain unified action.
A Just Transition is needed across the globe — but most discussions so far focus on the Global North. We want to break this silo and propose a set of guiding principles for a Just Transition with a particular focus on the Global South. These principles could serve as a shared value base for building new Just Transition alliances, covering a broad range of stakeholders, including civil society.
We have recently entered a period of deep contestation over the ownership and meaning of Just Transition. It is, therefore, important to think about it systematically so that we can, at the very least, differentiate initiatives that co-opt and dilute its promise from initiatives that contribute to a global politics of social and ecological emancipation.
If a productive, equitable outcome for all workers is the goal of a Just Transition, then we must look beyond the immediate impacts on fossil fuel workers and consider who else may be vulnerable. Failing to put equity considerations first can result in Just Transition policies that ignore the people most in need of support.