Typologies of "Just Transitions": Towards Social-Ecological Transformation

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The "Just Transition" (JT) approach emerged as an answer to balancing human welfare, jobs and the need for deep decarbonisation. The concept was developed by trade unions in the industrialised world as a unifying rallying cry around the demand that ecological transformation be undertaken in a socially just way. Starting out in the US in the 1970s, it has increasingly been adopted and adapted by different groups, including unions and workers themselves, environmentalists, academics, governments, international institutions and nongovernmental organisations. While the flexibility of the concept and the easy translatability of “fairness” have arguably been its strength and the reason for its popularity, JT has also been criticised for its vagueness, inoperability in practice, and in particular for being used to fight for various, and sometimes antithetical, conceptualisations of justice. Without negating the political challenges of JTs, this paper will look at divergent types of current formulations of JT, within a modified framework of Hampton’s (2015) trade union climate approaches, which includes 1) "neoliberal political economy/market" (NPE), 2) "ecological modernisation/state" (EM), and 3) "social-ecological transformation" (SET) climate approaches. Different JT approaches are aligned along "Market Policies" and "Just Transition" axes (Figure 1) of which NPE and SET form two extreme approaches. This paper will elaborate on why a radical SET formulation of JT, which moves past only class-based climate approaches (Hampton’s (2015) Marxist Political Economy) to include broader critiques based on environmental justice, degrowth and ecofeminism, is needed to adequately challenge current multiple crises related to the environment and society.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationVienna
PublisherWU Vienna University of Economics and Business
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Publication series

NameEcological Economic Papers

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WU Working Paper Series

  • Ecological Economic Papers

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