Mapping justice in national climate action: a global overview of just transition policies

Published on June 20, 2024
Tiffanie Chan, Jodi-Ann Wang, Catherine Higham
Photo: Unsplash / Tingey Injury Law Firm

This report is an initial exploratory study of global trends in just transition policies and laws. It empirically reviews 159 policies and laws across 61 countries and the European Union that are available from the Climate Change Laws of the World database, and seeks to map which countries are integrating ideas associated with the just transition into domestic climate policy, and how. The report focuses on economy-wide and energy policies and provides recommendations to national policymakers and finance actors.

  • Types of justice: The idea of justice can be understood differently in different contexts. The type of justice contemplated in a law or policy can have significant implications for its implementation. The authors’ mapping finds that the concept of distributive justice is by far the most common, although procedural justice also features relatively strongly.  
  • Recommendation: Policymakers in countries where distributive justice is the current priority (which concerns the fair distribution of risks and opportunities) should consider strengthening commitments to procedural justice (focusing on the agency of those affected by the economic and industrial transitions to have a say in the decisions that will affect them).  
  • Affected groups: Countries appear to have moved away from the narrower definition set out in the Paris Agreement of the “just transition of the workforce” to encompass broader impacts within society. There is also a growing recognition that groups that are already affected disproportionately by climate change impacts are likely to experience comparatively greater negative impacts from policy interventions targeted at climate change. 
  • Recommendation: Policymakers should undertake impact assessments for each policy to identify affected groups and communicate targeted interventions to address identified impacts.  
  • Concepts of change: There is a spectrum of interpretations of a just transition and how it should be implemented, varying from policies that focus on maintaining the status quo (i.e. avoiding worsening the economic situation of any group through the transition), to policies that take a more transformative approach. 
  • Recommendation: Policymakers and researchers should seek to better understand the benefits, drawbacks and mechanisms of implementing a more transformative approach, considering its feasibility.  
  • Policy levers and the role of finance: There is no one-size-fits-all approach to implementing the just transition. Countries are starting to adopt a diverse range of policy ‘levers’ and instruments. The economy-wide nature of delivering a just transition means that these tools are often spread across multiple policy documents. 
  • Recommendation: High-level documents like nationally determined contributions can be used to enable countries to synthesise the actions they plan to take and how these will work together with existing social protection systems. Clear signposting of comprehensive climate policy frameworks that integrate the implications of a just transition can help finance actors to translate them into a pipeline of investable or investment-ready projects.