You probably have heard the term “Just Transition” popping up in the news, articles and discussions, but what is the exact meaning of this phrase? Good question, as Just Transition is an important concept in modern environmentalism.

At its core, Just Transition is a concept of “transition” to a fair, green and sustainable economy through public support for large-scale environmental action, while maintaining a high level of protection for workers and local communities. The idea of this concept was formed a decade ago within the international labour movement. In 2015, the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) guidelines stated that “a just transition for all towards an environmentally sustainable economy needs to be well managed and contribute to the goals of decent work for all, social inclusion and the eradication of poverty”. Today this concept is well-rooted in the plans and prospects of various international organisations, public institutions and governments. The ILO more clearly defines just transition, providing the necessity of social dialogue, social protection and labour relations based on dialogue between unions, employers and governments.

But what policies and changes are implied by the concept of Just Transition? It points out the importance of three pillars – Society, Environment and Economy – that serve as stepping stones and connect the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN into one framework. To quote Kieran Mulvey, Just Transition Commissioner: “Just Transition can be defined as a vision which sets out a series of economic and social interventions needed to secure and shift economic and social activity in an area dependent on an extractive economy to jobs and activities relating to a regenerative economy”.

Unfortunately, interpretation of the term still varies greatly among different actors, and clear methods to achieve Just Transition still haven’t been agreed. However, the existence of this concept, as well as its usage, shows us an ever-increasing interest in environmental issues. Policies to address climate change are increasingly urgent, but they must ensure that workers and communities are not neglected but actually contribute to and benefit from current and future changes.

Written by Ilya Linevich