Inés Jimenez Rodriguez and Joachim Roth

In February 2025, the Parties to the Paris Agreement will submit their newest round of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). This submission marks an important opportunity for change: currently, only 31% of NDCs incorporate social dimensions and references to Just Transitions, yet this new generation could mark a stronger commitment to achieving justice through climate action. 

Such a commitment is not easily implemented. When including justice in their NDCs, countries face a considerable challenge in balancing ambitious goal-setting with feasible implementation. Many questions remain on how to plan and monitor progress on Just Transitions (JTs) —and, most crucially, on how to define and measure ‘justice’ itself. There is now a growing demand for research on Just Transition Indicators: metrics to articulate, signpost, and track Just Transitions. By providing measurable targets, indicators can be a useful tool to translate high-level plans into concrete and monitored implementation on the ground. This is a nascent field of research, yet one where efforts are starting to bear fruit.  

In this context, Climate Strategies and the World Benchmarking Alliance (WBA) hosted a workshop during SB60 titled Integrating justice in next-gen NDCs: Indicators and metrics to bridge ambition and implementation gaps in Just Transitions. This was an open discussion on how to integrate Just Transitions in NDCs and Supporting Mechanisms, with a special focus on justice indicators and metrics. Attended by UNFCCC negotiators from 11 countries as well as a selected number of experts and philanthropists, the discussion was packed with diverse expertise on the topic. 

The conversation led to 3 key insights on the importance and practicalities of developing Just Transition Indicators:  

Participants at the workshop.
  1. To face contemporary challenges, Just Transitions should be viewed as a cross-cutting agenda. At the same time, JT pathways need to be informed by national and local realities. 

Just Transitions require concerted and comprehensive efforts in their design and implementation. Cross-cutting coordination is critical to this process. 

Workshop participants noted that a lack of policy coherence across national strategies is a roadblock for Just Transition implementation. This is a core challenge for Just Transitions, which need to navigate trade-offs between climate commitments and developmental priorities. Operating Just Transitions as a cross-cutting strategy—as opposed to a siloed process—is fundamental in this context. Doing so can help pool sectoral expertise and resources, identify co-benefits and trade-offs across national priorities, and ensure an effective and fair transition. 

At the same time, workshop participants often pointed to specific sectoral transitions and priorities within their national pathways. Many emphasised the importance of a worker-centred approach— with (re)skilling and (re)education as top agenda items for countries such as Canada, the UK, and Singapore. Just energy transitions were also prominent. The inclusion of vulnerable communities is a key priority for countries such as the US and Colombia; also noted was the importance of technology transfer and cross-border cooperation, particularly for Small Island Developing States (SIDS) such as Singapore.  

Overall, while a cross-cutting approach is important, there are clear benefits in creating sector-specific pathways. Indeed, Just Sectoral Transitions can be a useful starting point to clarify the dynamics of the transition, including the multi-step process necessary to reach climate neutrality fairly and effectively.  

By developing Just Transition Indicators for specific sectoral pathways, countries can better define the ‘core’ transition pathways needed, and showcase their potential benefits beyond emission reductions (e.g., job protection, food security, improved infrastructure). Highlighting such benefits is crucial, as it demonstrates how Just Sectoral Transitions can align with national developmental priorities beyond climate neutrality. By articulating these transitions in clear and tangible terms, indicators can also help us to identify cross-sectoral priorities, co-benefits, and trade-offs. In doing so, they can contribute towards a cross-cutting approach to Just Transitions while remaining responsive to national priorities. 

  1. Using a set of ‘core’ indicators (with additional/supporting indicators) can highlight key transitions and facilitate public dialogue. Yet focusing on too few indicators can overlook impacts on vulnerable communities and regions.  

Workshop participants noted that metrics developed or considered internationally (for instance, through the UNFCCC’s Just Transitions Work Programme) should be informed by local and national realities. Indeed, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to Just Transitions: they should respond to the socioeconomic context and developmental priorities of their corresponding polity. At the same time, there is an argument for widening this scope. 

Some participants posited that developing a limited set of indicators (with supporting sub-indicators when needed) can help to keep the national focus on core transitions and facilitate public debate. Indeed, focusing on a limited set of indicators reduces the complexity otherwise associated with monitoring systems. Doing so provides a concrete, understandable basis for public dialogue over the transition – which can help to strengthen society’s understanding of the co-benefits and challenges involved, and facilitate its active contribution to target-setting. If Just Transitions are to include procedural justice (i.e., ensuring that decision-making processes are fair, accessible, and inclusive), this is crucial. 

This was the practice adopted in our report Transition Indicators to broaden perspectives beyond mitigation and adaptation. Through a series of case studies from across the world, the report provides a small set of one to three country-specific indicators for various sectors – from the decarbonisation of transport and industry, to enhancing water security and village empowerment. By expressing the transition in tangible and understandable terms, and highlighting its wider benefits, these indicators provide a solid basis for public dialogue and participation in decision-making processes. For an overview of this report, you can refer to the graphic below:

Nevertheless, participants also noted that focusing on too few indicators can overlook impacts on vulnerable populations and jeopardise Just Transitions. Summarising the transition to its ‘core’ pathways can contribute to transparent dialogue and feasible implementation—yet one risks creating a homogeneous picture out of a much more colourful reality. 

Research by our South to South project noted that Just Transitions need to account for heterogeneous landscapes, particularly across the Global South. In a world of interconnected yet deeply uneven development, acknowledging this diversity is paramount. For many countries, national Just Transitions imply a careful consideration of vulnerable regions (such as the coal mining Upper Nitra region in Slovakia) and marginalised communities (notably, incorporating Indigenous knowledge has been a key priority for countries such as Canada and Chile).  

As opposed to a top-down approach, Just Transition Indicators require an intersectional dialogue to identify and address the various needs, trade-offs, and co-benefits of the transition. There are considerable benefits to maintaining a simplified set of ‘core’ Transition Indicators, yet the inclusion and development of sub-indicators will make a stark difference in the implementation and lived experience of Just Transitions.  

  1. The private sector has a potential role in Just Transitions but will require the right incentives to pursue action. NDC processes need to be leveraged to bolster corporate actors. 

Workshop participants generally agreed that the private sector needs to actively contribute to funding, implementing, and exercising accountability for Just Transitions. However, it was also clear that corporate actors will only take meaningful action if the right incentives are established. Research from the WBA shows that today, less than 1% of companies are effectively planning for the transition. Relatedly, upcoming work from the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI) and WBA shows that G20 NDCs and long-term low-emission development strategies (LT-LEDs) currently include no explicit reference to corporate just transition plans

The upcoming revision of NDCs presents a window of opportunity to include private actors in the delivery of Just Transitions. Within a monitoring system, Just Transition Indicators and other practical approaches can signpost corporate action in the right direction and hold companies accountable for their delivery of transition pathways. By articulating the transition in clear and tangible terms, indicators can facilitate public-private dialogue and help affirm the role of the private sector in this process. A transparent and inclusive dialogue is indeed crucial to build a shared understanding at the national and business levels—particularly involving micro-, small and medium-sized enterprise (SMEs), which currently constitute 70% of global employment. Ultimately, this involvement is needed to ensure effective and aligned action by governments and businesses. 

The event featured series of interventions from experts on NDCs, Just Transitions, and more.

The road ahead 

The next fifteen months constitute a critical window for countries to develop ambitious and credible NDCs—and, crucially, to make Just Transitions a long-term national priority. This is practical as much as it is a necessity; when NDCs accounting for Just Transitions are more likely to attract the investment needed for their successful implementation. Learning to integrate and track justice—a task far harder than monitoring the technical elements of the transition—will be a fundamental resource on the road to COP30. 

Just Transitions require comprehensive and efficient implementation structures. Indicators can help to bridge ambition-implementation gaps, pursue alignments with other developmental priorities, and bolster transparency and accountability over the transition. Further research is needed on their design, implementation, and evaluation, as well as to address pervasive challenges: navigating local differences, improving data access and capacity-building, and facilitating interoperability and cross-country learning. Overall, this comprises a challenging yet deeply rewarding mission for the year ahead. 

About the authors:

Inés Jimenez Rodriguez joined Climate Strategies as a Programme and Networks Associate in July 2023. She is a la Caixa Foundation fellow and holds an MA in Development Studies (Major in Agrarian, Food, and Environmental Studies) from ISS, Erasmus University Rotterdam. Her research specialises in Political Ecology and Environmental Policy, with a special interest in the intersections between environmental conservation and the protection of livelihoods. Her thesis featured la Cañada Real Galiana (Europe’s largest informal settlement), as she explored the interactions between slum clearance policy, community self-management, and the adaptation to extreme weather events in a context of informality.

Joachim Roth is the Climate Policy Lead at the World Benchmarking Alliance and his work includes building multi-stakeholder coalitions to better track just transition progress. He has also worked on other climate topics such as the reform of national oil companies. He was previously a policy analyst in the energy team at the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD).

Cover photo by Claudio Testa on Unsplash