Developing and Applying a Just Transition Approach

  • Project no.251036
  • Duration 10/2016 - 12/2016

In the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, the world community committed to "(h)olding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels" (Art. 2.1(a)). Staying within these limits will require reducing greenhouse gas emissions to zero as soon as possible, which in turn will require a fundamental transformation of societies and economies.

In earlier economic transformations, workers and their communities often bore the brunt of the changes. The starting transition to a zero-emission economy similarly raises concerns that it will come at the expense of miners, steel workers and others whose livelihoods depend on emission-intensive production and services.

Such concerns have often been used as arguments against strengthening climate action, but have at the same time mostly played only a marginal role in climate policy circles. Issues of "carbon leakage" - shifts of production to other countries - have been discussed extensively, but otherwise climate policy has traditionally focused on counting carbon emissions, discounting wider socio-economic impacts of climate action as "co-benefits" and "co-costs".

However, for most people such "co-benefits" and "co-costs" are the core issues and climate policy is a side issue. To succeed, climate policy therefore needs to put equitable socio-economic development at the core of its approaches. Different groups of actors have attempted to develop concepts for a transition that is not only environmentally sustainable but also socially just.

Against this backdrop, Friends of the Earth Netherlands has commissioned the Wuppertal Institute with developing a framework of what defines a national Just Climate Transition within western European countries. It is recognised that (global) North-South justice is equally important and of high relevance, but the scope of this study is focused on transition within the traditional industrialised countries.

The study reviews different societal perspectives on how to align environmental protection and social justice. The aim of the review is to identify and compare how each approach defines core dimensions of a Just Climate Transition: Environmental sustainability, fairness and democracy. On this basis, the study will develop a definition and principles for a Just Climate Transition.