COP26: ‘Just Transition Is A Purpose, A Process And A Practice’

A black and white photo of a protest with a man holding up a sign saying 'With Privilege comes Responsibility'
Ottilie Owen

The Just Transition movement was first forged by labour unions and environmental justice groups, rooted in low-income communities and communities of colour. Their goal was to phase out industries that harmed the livelihood of their workers and the planet, whilst providing new just pathways for workers to transition to other more sustainable jobs.

The Environmental Justice (EJ) Movement focuses on bottom-up organization. Centring the voices of those who are most impacted by climate change and share community leadership. The EJ began in response to the fact that communities of colour and low-income communities are disproportionately exposed to and negatively impacted by industry and pollution.

Many memberships of the Climate Justice Alliance began as members of the EJ movement. Thus, the Just Transition now represents a diverse range of communities with a range of strategies to transition into ecologically sustainable environments.

What do we mean by ‘Just’ Transition?

‘if the process of transition is not just then the outcome will not be just’.

Just Transition describes where we are going and how we are going to get there. The Just Transition Alliance’s goal is to shift from an extractive economy to a regenerative economy.  This shift must be a just and equitable one; ‘if the process of transition is not just then the outcome will not be just’.

A regenerative economy is an economy that shifts power from international control to local control to create a new economic system. There is a need to change from the current consumerist and colonial mindset, to one of caring and sacredness; the purpose being ecological and social well-being put into focus and using our resources for regeneration.

The Just Transition Alliance stresses that transition to carbon neutrality is inevitable, but it being a just transition is not. Therefore, we must stop the harmful whilst at the same time building a new better system.

The core to this just transition ‘is deep democracy in which workers, and communities have control over the decisions that affect their daily lives’.

‘To Liberate the soil and to liberate our souls’

The alliance understands that a just transition will inevitably look different in different places but believe a core set of shared principles can strengthen their collective work.

Their principles include ‘Buen vivir’, the principle that we can live well without living better at the expense of others; equitable redistribution of resources and power, whilst creating inclusionary spaces for all traditions and cultures, recognising them as integral to a healthy and vibrant economy.

Included in this is making reparations for the land that has been stolen and/or destroyed by capitalism, colonialism, patriarchy and genocide and slavery. With a focus on solidarity a just transition must be liberal and transformative. It is fundamental to recognise the interconnectedness of our communities the alliance stresses, as the impact of the extractive economy knows no borders, its effects are felt world-wide.

The idea of a Just Transition is one that may seem appealing to many but unfortunately due to a lack of publicity has failed to have the reach campaigns such as ‘Race to Zero’ do. It will be interesting to see how much further this idea will reach over the coming ten years.

Ottilie Owen

Featured Image Courtesy of Lan Nguyen via Unsplash. Find Image license here.

This article was part of Impact Nottingham’s COP26 series for more articles on the conference check out the link here.

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