What is a just transition and how do we achieve it?

If you've been following climate issues for a while, you've probably heard the term „just change.”

We know that the world must move urgently away from fossil fuels and towards a low-carbon future. But how do we ensure that this change is achieved in a fair and equitable way?

As carbon-intensive industries are phased out, they threaten to destroy millions of jobs and livelihoods around the world. Globally, More than 32 million workers According to the International Energy Agency, only fossil fuels are used.

At the same time, key elements of the green transition, such as renewable energy and tree planting, can create their own injustices.

For example, the rapid development of electric vehicles is driving the demand for lithium and cobalt, but also mining for these elements Contaminates indigenous lands and water bodies in South America And Threatens the habitat of Africa's great apes.

Similarly, fueling the growing market for carbon credits Corporate land grabbing Across the Global South.

Proponents say just change must involve corporations, governments, financial institutions — but most importantly, individuals around the world who must have a choice and a voice at every step to ensure sustainable livelihoods and futures for all.

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If polluting industries are unfairly eliminated, millions of jobs worldwide will be at risk. Hue Wu Min, Unsplash

What is „mere change”?

within it Sixth Assessment ReportIntergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Defines A proper conversion is as follows:

A set of policies, processes and practices that ensure that no people, workers, places, sectors, countries or regions are left behind in the transition from a high-carbon to a low-carbon economy.

Climate justice advocates say the world's most vulnerable — especially women and children — must be actively involved in devising measures to ensure clean energy is produced and distributed equitably.

It can provide growth, development and employment to lift millions of people out of poverty in the coming years.

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„Content is very important,” says Jitsai Shantaputra, a consultant at The Landau GroupCo-Founder of Youth for Energy Southeast Asia and SDG 7 Global Youth Ambassador for Southeast Asia.

„Hearing from the young, the old, men and women – that's essential. Everyone's voices must be heard and respected, and everyone must have the right to access the resources they need to live a dignified life: resources like food, water, housing, health, energy, education.”

A just transition is critical to achieving social and environmental justice and succeeding in transitioning the planet towards a sustainable future. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

„When done right, change offers enormous opportunities: a systemic change in which all communities, workers and nations are uplifted,” it says.

„The key is to create a common vision of what fair change means for their affected workers, communities and businesses.”

A slum area in Lagos, Nigeria. Remy Ajenifuja, Unsplash

Putting „just” in „just change”.

Given the vast inequality in the world today, humanity needs not one, but many equitable changes, all integrated to address the disparate impacts of the climate crisis, he says. Sabrina FernandezSociologist and Research Leader Alameda Company.

„This requires taking the „just the switch” very seriously – if we want to maintain very high energy and resource costs in rich societies, to the point of rejecting projects, poorer parts of the world will still have to choose between external debt servicing, basic healthcare and wind and solar power,” He explains.

Fernández calls for „internationalist just change” that gives poor countries the resources to mitigate and adapt to the climate crisis, while preventing further harm.

„Some of the key instruments for equalization of capabilities include cancellation of external debt, technology transfer and a Green Finance It is provided by rich countries through grants rather than loans to developing countries,” he says.

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This would include a loss and damage fund, while funding for adaptation should prioritize areas where climate change threatens significant habitat loss and mass displacement of people.

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Amid sky-high energy prices, companies can tap into growing demand for energy-efficient products. via Envato

A business case for a reasonable change

Corporations can play an important role in supporting a just transition, and it may even be in their own interest to do more.

By shifting energy and money away from greenwashing, they can focus on long-term and impactful activities that truly support their workers and communities after listening to their needs, says Shantaputra.

„That's good for everyone. People are educated, healthy and happy, they have more income and therefore spend more to contribute to the national GDP.

A key way businesses can contribute to the right change is by offering choice. Consumers and businesses need options to make an informed decision about which energy provider to choose based on its green credentials, says Shantaputra.

It increases awareness of an object's appearance. Consumers can use that choice to analyze and better understand the impacts of their choices on the climate. They may choose to pay a price premium if their energy comes from renewables, but only if they have these choices, he says.

„Demanding change is part of a fair change, so if you don't know injustice is happening or you don't have options, it's hard to stand up and say: 'I want this' or 'I don't want that – I want something better.'

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Will South America's Indigenous Lands Become „Sacrifice Zones” for Lithium Mining? via Envato

Can world leaders chart a path forward?

But someone needs to steer businesses in the right direction to achieve impact, and that's where policymakers come in.

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Nick Robbins, Professor in Practice at the Grantham Research Institute at the London School of Economics, says it is vital for governments to consider social justice when making green public investments.

„We have to show that the process is respectable [people]Better job opportunities not only for business but also for workers: improving gender balance within the energy workforce, for example, recognizing that this is a huge opportunity,” he says. A recently published article.

Robbins believes the European Green Deal is showing its promise Just Transition MechanismFeatures of the US Deflation Act Principles of Environmental Justice.

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But Fernandez argues that more needs to be done to develop supply chains for minerals such as lithium, cobalt and copper, which are in high demand for renewable energy. She points out Environmental and Cultural Pact of the SouthIt calls for a just energy transition and rejects „green colonialism” in the Global South.

„The resources and technology required for new infrastructure often rely on damaging processes that create 'victim zones' in marginalized communities,” says Fernández. „This normalization must not be tolerated.”

Shantaputra believes world leaders are beginning to realize the importance of hearing from ordinary people. A good example is the UN Youth Advisory Committee on Climate ChangeIt includes the views of seven young climate leaders – underscoring the role of youth advocates in climate action.

„At the highest level, it sets a big symbol,” he says. „This sends a strong signal to other countries around the world that the advice of young people and everyday communities is valued.”

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