There are many understandings and practices of just transition(s). They range from change at the margins that largely preserves the neoliberal or developmentalist status quo, on one end of the spectrum, to overhaul of existing economic and political systems and a transformative shift towards sustainability and climate justice, on the other.
Many examples of the more transformative forms 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 and local-level transitions are not always or automatically progressive and just, however. The extent to which they can contribute to a transformative shift to low-carbon development, and how their potential can be leveraged to accelerate a progressive just transition, needs careful assessment.
This new report discusses a selection of urban and local-level transitions to a lower carbon economy. By exploring these examples from both developed and developing countries, it aims to kick-start a conversation on the potential of local just transition policies and frameworks to influence higher level policy change. It calls for safeguarding just transition’s original objective of reorganizing the political economy to protect both the environment and workers as a way to mobilize broad-based support for a transformative shift towards sustainability and climate justice.
The Just Transition Research Collaborative (JTRC) was established in 2018 to bring together experts from academia and civil society to collectively map and analyse different understandings and narratives of just transition that underpin the concept’s growing popularity and uptake.
This report was compiled and drafted by Shannon Johnson and Dunja Krause, with inputs from Sanna Markkanen (policies to support urban transition to a low-carbon economy), Maxensius Tri Sambodo (distributive impacts of energy policies in Indonesia), Shivani Chaudhry (transformative just transition based on human rights principles), Aaron Eisenberg (New York City case study), and Jessica Omukuti (Tanzania case study). It benefited greatly from discussions and contributions at the JTRC workshop Cities in Transition held in Berlin in July 2019, and additionally draws on presentations made by Gerald Taylor Aiken (notion of communities, Scotland case study), David Ciplet (Boulder, Colorado, case study), and Ankit Kumar (just energy access case study from India). We are grateful to Dimitris Stevis for his review and helpful comments. Edited by Joannah Caborn Wengler; design and layout by Sergio Sandoval.
JTRC is a joint project of the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung—New York Office, the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD), and the University of London Institute in Paris (ULIP).