By Nia Hunjan, Climate Strategies

Around the globe, the just transition concept has been gaining momentum as a means to enable and accelerate inclusive climate action. The recent COP26 in Glasgow saw a number of statements, pledges and declarations on the topic, however it is debated if these have made any impact on the current just transition situation.

The declaration signed by countries in the global north including the EU, US and Canada, builds on the Silesia Declaration signed at COP24 in Katowice. Besides acknowledging that the process towards an environmentally Signed by countries 16 developed countries (including the US and Canada) and the EU was a declaration on ‘Supporting the Conditions for a Just Transition Internationally’. Besides acknowledging that the process towards an environmentally sustainable economy needs to be “managed well and contribute to the goals of decent work for all, social inclusion and the eradication of poverty”, it states that signatories will support developing countries and emerging economies with their just transitions which “should include access to modern technologies, capacity building and finance, as well as policy solutions to manage transitions in a just and inclusive way”. It brings a climate justice and global equity take on the just transition.

There is no simple approach to addressing a global just transition. There is no one size fits all approach to a just transition, and transition strategies must be localised and tailored to individual contexts. In developing countries and emerging economies this transition can be more challenging as these countries often experience a high incidence of informal workers, higher levels of poverty and a larger unskilled workforce. In partnership with nine research institutions from Argentina, Bangladesh, Colombia, Ghana, Indonesia, Kenya, Laos, Malawi and Vietnam, Climate Strategies’ South to South Just Transition initiative sets out to explore what just transitions in these communities in these countries can look like in reality. The project also explores developing alternative, context-specific approaches to just transitions.

The video below shows all our in-country research partners in the South to South just transition consortium, developing their own just transition strategies.

Bringing together global voices on just transition

In collaboration with the Ministry of Environment from the Republic of Estonia and the Asian Institute of Technology, Climate Strategies hosted an UNFCCC side event at the COP26 in Glasgow. The event showcased different perspectives of just transitions and explored how the inclusion of just transition concepts in climate policy enables and accelerates the implementation of climate action.

Moderated by Julie-Anne Hogbin from Climate Strategies, the event opened with an address from Kristi Klaas, Deputy Secretary General of the Ministry of Environment in the Estonian government. She stressed the importance of bringing together experts from around the globe to share their knowledge and good practices in implementing the Paris Agreement. This was followed by the Estonian perspective of the just transition and leaving no one behind, delivered by Annela Anger-Kraavi from the Estonian Environmental Research Centre. Annela spoke on the significance of the oil-shale industry in Estonia which employs 6000 people both directly and indirectly. As the government has announced the phase-out of oil shale by 2040, this is an industry and value-chain where just transition principles must be applied to protect people’s livelihoods.

Just Transitions in South America and South Africa

The first panel discussion opened with an intervention from Alex Saer, the Director of Climate Change, Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, Colombia, who emphasised the importance of a cross-sectoral just transition. In Colombia, just transition is included in the NDC and as the understanding of just transition is deepened, tailored strategies are being developed.

Alice Amorim, German Chancellor Fellow at Alexander von Humboldt Foundation spoke on the challenges and ideas to move just transition forward in Brazil. Alice found commonalities between the Brazil and the Colombia cases and highlighted the challenge of not only high levels of informality in the workforce, but also structural unemployment due to a large number of low or unskilled workers in Brazil. Alice finished by stating that the just transition question in Brazil is about, ‘how can climate policies create jobs for unskilled labour?’

Presenting another perspective from Latin America, Pilar Assefh, an environmental journalist working as part of Sociedad y Naturaleza in Argentina, highlighted it was important to recognise there is no one singular transition, but a number of interrelated transitions that must take place. These transitions must take place in the workforce and communities, but also in mentality, social issues, masculinity and so on – debates that have not yet begun in Argentina.

Joanne Yawitch, the CEO of the National Business Initiative in South Africa spoke on the urgency of implementing just transition strategies in South Africa. Just transition strategies address the value-chain of an industry and will protect workers across the coal industry in South Africa, providing them with reskilling opportunities and support.

The panel closed with an intervention from Kusum Lata from the UNFCCC secretariat who presented the challenges of implementation of response measures in relation to just transition. Kusum focusses on the critical lack of data, especially in global south countries, needed to formulate just transition policies.

Youth voices

The second panel was brought together three youth representatives from Malawi, the UK and Singapore. Brenda Mwale from Malawi opened the panel and spoke of her experience as part of the Green Girls Platform that provides capacity building and support for women and girls in Malawi to be involved in climate decision-making. She emphasised the importance of engaging youth for a just transition, as they need to be involved in the process to have buy-in to the transition. The next panel member was Serena Bashal, from the UKYCCC and a Youngo representative. Serena posited that the youth are the key stakeholder in the just transition process and that intergenerational equity is crucial to the decision-making process. Zi Han Xuan, from Singapore, from the UKYCC and founder of youth rising up for NDCs followed by emphasising the need for an intergenerational dialogue, in particular between youth and policymakers in climate action.

Leaving no one behind

Just transition concepts are gaining momentum as they are needed to enable and accelerate inclusive climate action. The perspectives across different contexts demonstrated that although there is no one size fits all approach to a just climate transition, through sharing experiences, collaboration and commonalities, best practices and opportunities can be found.

Our South to South Just Transitions project will further explore how to make a just transition a reality around the globe.

To hear more and watch the event in full, please find the recording on the UNFCCC youtube channel.