1963-2018 - 55 years of Research for Social Change

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Back | Programme Area: Social Dimensions of Sustainable Development

Just Transition Research Collaborative (Phase II): Cities in Transition—Urban Struggles for Just Transition(s)

  • Project from: 2019 to 2019


This project analyses urban approaches to just transition, exploring the role of cities in implementing progressive and transformative just transition strategies and plans. Building on the theoretical framework and assessment carried out by the Just Transition Research Collaborative and published in the report Just Transition(s) to a Low-Carbon World (2018), the project collects new empirical evidence and stories from several cities, and fosters exchange of experience and mutual learning on the role of cities in just transition. The research contributes a better understanding of the potential of city-level just transition policies and frameworks to influence higher level policy change and climate justice.

See also: Just Transition Research Collaborative (Phase I): Mapping Just Transition(s) to a Low-Carbon World

The Research Issue in Context


Cities are both major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions and forerunners of sustainability. They account for around two thirds of the global energy demand and 70% of carbon emissions, on the one hand. On the other, they are often drivers of the renewable energy transition and champions of sustainability innovation. Faced with rapid urbanization and mounting environmental and social pressures, cities have come up with a range of initiatives and ambitious plans to tackle climate change and transition to sustainability. Cities are often also hosts of progressive movements and alliances in the struggle for sustainability and climate justice. So will cities drive the just transition to low-carbon development?

A range of understandings and narratives of just transition underpin the concept’s growing popularity and uptake, from change at the margins that largely preserves the status quo to profound transformations in the way societies organize their economies, environments and social interactions. Many of the more transformative examples of just transition are rooted in local movements and community organizations exerting pressure on their local, regional and sometimes national governments to adopt alternative development strategies. Urban transitions are not automatically progressive and just, however; rather, they fall along a continuum of approaches that differ in their visions of a low-carbon and sustainable future. The extent to which cities can contribute to a transformative shift to low-carbon development, and how their potential can be utilized to accelerate a progressive just transition, needs careful assessment.

Objectives and Scope


The project analyses urban approaches and case studies of just transition to gain a more elaborate understanding of the role of cities in implementing progressive and transformative just transition strategies and plans. It builds on the theoretical framework and assessment produced in 2018 by the Just Transition Research Collaborative (JTRC), collecting examples and stories from several cities to foster a debate on the role of cities in just transition. It will thereby advance understanding of the potential of city-level just transition policies and frameworks to influence higher level policy change and climate justice.

The project convenes the JTRC and invites new collaborators to share their experiences and insights into just transition to showcase selected cities’ just transition strategies and approaches.

Activities and Outputs


Project workshop (Berlin, 14-15 June 2019)
Building on the existing JTRC network, the workshop will bring together a select group of experts of just transition and cities/urban sustainability research to discuss the potential and limitations of cities driving the just transition to low-carbon development. It will also serve to organize the JTRC’s work on the more in-depth case studies. Key insights from the workshop will be published in an Event Brief.

Case study research
In order to produce an in-depth case study of urban just transition, we will launch an open call for expressions of interest and discuss several options for case studies at the workshop. One case study paper will subsequently be commissioned as a background paper for the policy report. Other examples and stories of just transition in cities will be curated for the Just Transitions Online Forum.

Policy report on just transition and the role of cities
The report, to be launched at COP25 (Chile, December 2019), will condense research findings and identify policy implications and lessons for decision makers.

Communications and outreach


The research work will be complemented by a variety of communications and outreach activities carried out in collaboration with JTRC members and partner organizations in order to increase the project’s reach and engage with a wide audience. Channels include the Just Transition(s) Online Forum and @JTRC2018, as well as the UNRISD website, eBulletin and social media.

Funding


The project is funded by the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung with support from the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.