In this blog, Programme and Development Officer Nicole Kempis discusses the increasingly prominent role of “Just Transitions” in international climate negotiations and our work at Climate Strategies.

Last year at COP27, Parties decided to establish a new Work Programme on Just Transitions (JTWP) to support the Paris Agreement. The JTWP provides a crucial opportunity to advance Paris Agreement goals by centering a broad and inclusive approach to Just Transitions in UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) processes.

Just Transitions help to maximize co-benefits from climate action, navigate trade-offs, reduce inequality, and boost economic development.

Our research shows that a cross-cutting approach to Just Transitions is needed to support ambitious and equitable action. A cross-cutting approach is one that supports a multi-sector strategy, goes beyond mitigation to incorporate adaptation, enables multi-stakeholder participation, welcomes multiple approaches and pathways, and prioritises the needs of the most vulnerable.

Read more about our recommendations for an ambitious and effective JTWP here.

COP28 Negotiations

Parties met at COP28 to develop a draft decision on the JTWP. These negotiations commenced with a sense of excitement and optimism, marked by high interest in the negotiations amongst civil society and the media. On one occasion, there was so much interest from observers that negotiations had to be moved to the main plenary room. Throughout negotiations, Parties emphasized the importance of having observers in the room and hearing inputs from youth, Indigenous Peoples, women, and NGO constituency perspectives to maintain a pluralistic process.

During the second week, divisions emerged regarding the JTWP’s scope and objectives. Developing countries (led by South Africa on behalf of the G77 and China) pushed for tangible outcomes and implementation support—as well as strong language on CBDR (Common But Differentiated Responsibilities), international cooperation, and sustainable development. Some Parties argued that these elements diluted the concept of Just Transitions and detracted from ambition. 

There was general agreement that Just Transitions should be embedded into future NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions) and that participation would be key to the JTWP. Some Parties expressed concerns regarding ‘unilateral coercive measures,’ and emphasized the importance of country-specific approaches to Just Transition pathways. 

COP28 Formal Opening. Credit: UN Climate Change.

The final text includes some key points for developing countries, including preambular language related to means of implementation, and objectives related to sustainable development and international cooperation.

However, the JTWP’s activities, as described in the text, are limited to dialogues and reports. These activities could support efforts to centralise international work on Just Transitions within the UNFCCC but fall short of making clear commitments to enable the implementation of Just Transitions at the local level or extend beyond conversation.

The text includes potential for participation, specifically, an invitation to observers to submit their views on key topics for dialogues by February. However, the text does not guarantee that observers or others can attend these dialogues, contradicting the participatory spirit of Just Transitions and failing to recognize the significant work done by NGOs, trade unions, youth, women and researchers on Just Transitions.

Our COP28 side-event on Just Transitions. Watch the recording here.

Climate Strategies will continue to engage with the JTWP by submitting a recommendation for potential dialogue topics early next year. We will facilitate webinars and small group discussions on JTWP outcomes to synergise with the work of other observers and stakeholders.

Our ongoing research is generating new evidence for ambitious and cross-cutting Just Transitions, particularly in the field of just resilience. We are committed to supporting the creation of sustainable, in-country networks working on just transition planning and implementation through research and policy dialogues.