How Can we Manage a Just Transition? A comparative review of policies to support a just transition from carbon intensive industries was released by the University of Victoria , Institute for Integrated Energy Systems in late March 2021. The researchers examined national Just Transition policies in Canada and in twenty-five European Union and Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, along with EU-level and regional entities. Seven main thematic areas were identified: i) governance mechanisms: ii) climate and sustainability planning; iii) workforce development; iv) economic development; v) regional and rural development; vi) innovation and research; vii) social security. Amongst the key findings: Jobs and environment-focussed initiatives are the most common, with well-developed workforce and skills strategies evident. However, the researchers highlight many deficiencies, including a lack of social justice language in policies; a lack of targeted strategies, excepting for the coal industry; a lack of proactive planning – with the exception of workforce development measures; and a lack of integrated planning at the industrial/economic planning level. The report points to best practice examples – in New Zealand for its proactive approach, and in Scotland and Ireland, for accountability through Just Transitions Commissions.
The report provides a thorough literature review, international analysis, and identifies areas where further research is needed. It also provides ten brief, unique case studies which include, but go beyond fossil-fuel related transitions, consisting of: Ontario, Canada; Grand-Est, France; Saarland, Germany; Western Macedonia, Greece; Piedmont, Italy; Incheon, Capital Region, Korea; Bay of Plenty, New Zealand; Basque Country, Spain; Kalmar, Småland with Islands, Sweden; and Wales, United Kingdom.
Called both a strategy document and a guidebook, Real People Real Change: Strategies for Just Energy Transitions was officially launched at the Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue event on April 10, although published by The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) in December 2018. The IISD says “it is intended to support governments of both developed and developing countries in their efforts to make energy transitions just. It brings together political and communications strategies for a just transition, building on research and case studies of energy transitions that have happened or that are happening in Canada, Egypt, Indonesia, India, Poland and Ukraine.” The report highlights what it calls “a common “4C” framework that has been critical to several successful transitions: understanding the local context; identifying champions that can drive transition with various groups; making the case through transparent and effective stakeholder engagement; and developing complementary policies that support those who will be directly impacted by transition.
The report also includes Annex 1: Quantitative approaches for estimating
employment impacts, which provides a brief overview and critical analysis of the unique challenges of measuring the transition pathway through its stages.
The 5th Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue (BETD) included a side event, Shifting to Below 2°C Economies: Strategies for just energy transitions, summarized here. Amongst the speakers: Hassan Yusseff, President of the Canadian Labour Congress, and Samantha Smith, Director of the Just Transition Centre.
An October 29 report commissioned by CFMEU Mining and Energy union of Australia argues that government will need billions of dollars for comprehensive measures to support workers and communities in a move away from coal-fired power generation. It calls for consultation and participation in planning, and an independent statutory Energy Transition Authority . The Ruhr or Appalachia? Deciding the future of Australia’s coal power workers and communities examines case studies from around the world – both successful and unsuccessful – including South Wales (U.K.), Appalachia (U.S.), Singapore, Limburg (Netherlands) and the Ruhr Valley (Germany). Within Australia, the Hazelwood closure is judged as unsuccessful – due to a lack of advance planning – and the LaTrobe Valley experience as a positive model. The report concludes that advance planning is essential to success, with a national framework …“ International evidence tells us that such a framework will require active participation from companies, workforce union representation, and government.”
The Ruhr or Appalachia? report was written by Professor Peter Sheldon at the Industrial Relations Research Centre at the University of New South Wales. It includes an extensive bibliography of other studies of Just Transition. The report was commissioned by CFMEU Mining and Energy union, which represents over 20,000 workers, mainly in coal mining and also in metalliferous mining, coal ports, power stations, oil refineries and other parts of the oil and gas production chain. For briefer versions see the union’s press release “New Independent Authority Needed To Manage Transition For Energy Workers”, or a 4-page Executive Summary .
On October 22, the International Labour Organization (ILO) released Just Transition Towards Environmentally Sustainable Economies and Societies for All, which argues for the importance of just transition policies – not as an “add-on”, but an integral part of the climate policy and sustainable development policy framework. This Policy Brief, aimed at a labour union audience, reviews the history and fundamental principles of the Just Transition concept, provides case studies which form an impressive catalogue of how just transition has (and in some cases, hasn’t) worked around the world, and concludes with recommendations of how trade unions and workers’ organizations can contribute to the goal of Just Transition to a low carbon economy .
The Just transition case studies are drawn from both from the global North and the global South – specifically, Alberta; Australia; Brazil; California; Chiapas State, Mexico; Europe; India; Indonesia; Phillipines, Ruhr Valley; South Africa; and Vietnam. They reflect interventions at the regional, country, and sectoral level – most frequently the coal industry. In the end, the author concludes that, while a coherent strategy with clear objectives and targets is essential, it can only work properly if supported by the main stakeholders. Cooperation of environmental and labour advocacy groups is extremely important, as is the input of Indigenous people. He further judges that “ 10-12 years seems to be a realistic framework which would also allow time to build up well-founded just transition plans.”
What can trade unions do?: The author’s recommendations are: Be proactive and build just transition strategies for the future; Be involved at all levels; Build coalitions; Manage labour market transitions; and Develop future-oriented innovative approaches. To help unions, the author provides information for “Capacity and network building” on page 10, including the network and databases provided by the Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change (ACW) project : specifically, the Green Collective Agreements database and the Education and Training materials database .
Just Transition Towards Environmentally Sustainable Economies and Societies for All was written by Béla Galgóczi, Senior Researcher at the European Trade Union Institute and an Associate of the Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change (ACW) research project. The new report is available in English and in French , published by the ILO Bureau for Workers Activities (ACTRAV), which also publishes the International Journal of Labour Research. In May 2018, the ILO Employment Policy Department issued an Employment Research Brief, Green Growth, Just Transition and Green Jobs: There’s a Lot we don’t know , which summarizes and links to the most recent international studies on these three topics.
A new, optimistic initiative called Mothers of Invention was launched in July, led by Mary Robinson, former Prime Minister of Ireland and a well-known climate justice campaigner. Maeve Higgins, an Irish-born comedian is her “sidekick” in a series of podcasts designed to celebrate “ amazing women doing remarkable things in pursuit of climate justice.” Through lighthearted, informal conversations, the podcasts educate and inspire with stories of local climate activists – initially focusing on women only, but eventually planned to include men as well. The clear purpose is to motivate individuals with positive examples, rather than a climate change “doom and gloom” message.
Episode 1, All Rise , explores the issue of global climate litigation through interviews with Tessa Khan, Co-Founder of the Global Climate Litigation network ; Marjan Minnesma, Director of the Urgenda Foundation which launched the world’s first climate liability lawsuit in the Netherlands; and Kelsey Juliana, Victoria Barrett & Ridhima Pandey – young plaintiffs from the U.S. and India who are supported in lawsuits against their own governments by the Our Children’s Foundation. Each episode consists of the podcast interviews and discussion, with links for more information, more involvement, and a chance to donate.
The line up of future “Mothers” includes activists from around the world who have focused on land protection, zero waste, fossil fuel divestment, energy poverty, plastic pollution, and environmental racism. The initiative is profiled in The Guardian in “Mary Robinson launches new feminist fight against climate change” (July 24).