To tackle and build resilience to the ever-increasing impacts of the climate crisis, societies around the world are transitioning to become low-carbon and more sustainable. The process of these transitions is affecting individuals across multiple geographies, sectors and generations.

Just Transitions manage the transition process in a way that enhances the benefits of these changes and reduces negative impacts on the most vulnerable.

Embracing this concept is essential to meeting our climate goals and ensuring no one is left behind.

Stakeholders — such as affected communities and workers, civil society, the private sector, and governments — play a key role as both architects and beneficiaries of just transitions. Just transitions take a participatory approach to decision-making to ensure that all voices are heard in the process of planning and executing the shift to a low-carbon society.

Climate Strategies’ South-to-South Just Transitions network (S2S) brings together research partners from nine countries to produce reports on the benefits and barriers related to just transitions in their national contexts. Over the past year, our research partners have engaged with stakeholders to share their research findings and develop inclusive networks for just transitions in their respective countries.

This article draws on these experiences to recommend successful tactics for engaging stakeholders in just transition conversations around the world.

S2S Partner Network

How to Plan Successful Engagements:

Clarify what you hope to achieve

In some countries, the just transition (JT) concept is still new, and our engagements were designed to familiarize stakeholders with the concept.

For example, Hanoi University of Science and Technology (Vietnam) found that a combination of small group meetings with key government and private stakeholders provided an opportunity to increase public and private policymakers’ understanding of the JT. These meetings also served to create a trusted relationship between academia and government actors working on the JT.

In other countries, just transition discourses were more advanced, and activities focused on identifying barriers to action, generating potential solutions, and building a consensus on next steps. For example, JT discussions are prevalent in Indonesia because of the country’s Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP). As a result, the Dala Institute in Indonesia found that engaging in JT working groups was an effective way to connect with existing stakeholders.

In all cases, the consortium sought to build bridges between stakeholders to support continued interactions after the initial project.

Tailor your approach to your stakeholders

The S2S consortium started by identifying key stakeholders and holding brief consultations to determine the best way to engage them. The chosen methods of engagement included online and in-person forums, roundtable discussions, small focus groups, interviews, panel discussions and workshops.

Initial engagements in the form of one-on-one informal interviews (particularly with governmental officials) worked well in Argentina, Vietnam, Colombia and Ghana to gather in-depth information from key policy and decision makers. In Kenya, workshops that included a presentation followed by breakout group discussions provided an opportunity to increase participation and reach an agreement on key next steps.

Build on existing networks and concepts

Just transitions are an increasingly important framework, and many NGOs, governments, and institutes are engaged in the subject. By tapping into relevant existing networks or related events during the planning phase, it was possible for consortium members to connect with a greater number of actors in a short time period.

For example, the Hanoi University of Science and Technology (Vietnam) engaged with stakeholders at government-led sustainability workshops. The Centre for Environmental Policy and Advocacy (Malawi) engaged with civil society networks to expand their reach. Building on existing concepts can also be useful when first engaging stakeholders — the National University of Laos connected just transition frameworks to the more familiar concept of benefit sharing to build understanding.

Successful Approaches to Stakeholder Engagement

Several S2S partners found it useful to undertake their engagements in virtual form. Sociedad y Naturaleza (SyN) in Argentina noted that a virtual approach made engagements more accessible for busy stakeholders. Fedesarrollo (Colombia) found that virtual engagements allowed them to reach several regions in the country at once. On the other hand, partners in the University of Bangladesh, CEPA (Malawi) and Environment for Development (Kenya) highlighted the importance of in-person engagements as a strategy to build trust and agree on key next steps. 

Making use of personal contacts proved to be an efficient way to access several stakeholders. SyN (Argentina) found that the closer the tie with a person or network, the more likely they were to actively participate.

Finally, partnering with media and respected figures proved to be a successful strategy to maximise attendance and to increase exposure. For SyN in Argentina, working with a well-known and politically neutral journalist was instrumental in a context where just transitions are highly politicised. In Bangladesh, co-hosting an event with the Dhaka Tribune enabled the University of Liberal Arts (ULAB) to achieve wide news coverage, which appealed to some high-level stakeholders.

Barriers to Stakeholder Engagement

In many countries, the primary challenge was getting high-level officials to participate in organized activities. However, SyN noted that building personal relationships over time increased success, and Hanoi University of Science and Technology (HUST) in Vietnam and the Dala Institute (Indonesia) found that meeting on-to-one could increase long-term engagement.

Another common challenge involved managing varying levels of just transition knowledge among attendees. Looking ahead, Fedesarrollo (Colombia) suggested organizing multiple workshops to enable continuous learning. Additionally, they found that sending out a survey before the workshops allowed organisers to tailor the information to different stakeholder needs.

Finally, HUST (Vietnam) and ULAB (Bangladesh) both pointed out the challenge of accommodating stakeholder schedules. ULAB found that high level stakeholders may be more willing to attend shorter events. HUST suggested that conducting in-depth interviews and small focus groups — which are easier to execute and schedule, compared to workshops and roundtables — were a good option when scheduling conflicts couldn’t be resolved.

Key Recommendations

  • Understand and adapt to each stakeholder’s position. Government officials, in particular, may be concerned about discussing new subjects. Dala (Indonesia), found that planning informal one-on-one engagements to build trust and subject familiarity ahead of larger meetings could resolve this issue.
  • Key stakeholders might not be reflected in organisational structures. As SyN (Argentina) discovered, the people making relevant decisions are often mid-level senior officials. To identify these people, it’s helpful to speak to trusted individuals within target organisations who can help researchers navigate decision-making hierarchies.
  • Partner with other institutions that are working on similar topics (i.e. think tanks, NGOs, or national newspapers) to maximise impact and reach. Partners in Malawi, Kenya, Argentina, and Bangladesh used this approach to secure participation from a broader range of stakeholders.
  • Use a bottom-up approach. The University of Nairobi (EfD) and the University of Ghana found that connecting the just transition to on-the-ground realities and tangible needs was an effective way to engage decision-makers, as opposed to relying on theoretical data. CEPA (Malawi) found that connecting just transition frameworks to existing development goals was also successful.
  • Make the interactions recurrent. Going back to stakeholders with new information is a useful way to maintain trust and engagement. Fedesarrollo continues to engage with key actors to identify new gaps and opportunities for future research that can support policymaking needs.

A successful just transition not only depends on governments, but also on the active and sustained engagement of stakeholders, including local communities, national, regional, multilateral and international organizations, public and private sectors, civil society and other relevant actors, as well as an effective management and provision of evidence-based and context-relevant knowledge.

The South-to-South (S2S) Just Transitions Programme

South-to-South (S2S) Just Transitions is a multi-layered (and multi-year) initiative that supports and empowers countries in the Global South to advance research on just transitions in diverse national contexts. Supported by European Climate Fund and Porticus over several consecutive projects, S2S strengthens national research capacity and facilitates a lasting network of just transition researchers and stakeholders in Argentina, Bangladesh, Colombia, Ghana, Indonesia, Kenya, Laos, Malawi and Vietnam.