The Transformative Capability of Just Transition Policy: A Framework for Analysis

Authors: David Ciplet*,
Topics: Urban Geography, Cultural and Political Ecology, Environment
Keywords: Just transition, environmental justice, urban politics, climate justice
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2020
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Plaza Court 6, Sheraton, Concourse Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The concept of a ‘just transition’ positions justice concerns of workers, front-line communities, and other marginalized groups at the center of sustainability, climate and energy efforts. However, related policy initiatives vary greatly in the extent to which they contribute to transformative outcomes for marginalized communities. Drawing upon the social theory of Karl Polanyi and Antonio Gramsci, this article argues that the transformative capability of just transition policy initiatives may be predicated on two factors. First, is the extent to which policy processes are embedded within, and subordinate to, the context-specific concerns of land, labor and money of marginalized constituents. Second, is the extent to which a counter-hegemonic bloc forms with the power to overcome interests intent on reproducing privilege and disembedding economy from community. These factors contribute to four potential just transition policy outcomes: status quo; passive revolution; managerial reform; and transformation. I discuss three case studies in relation to this conceptual framework: the Climate Action Plan in the City of Boulder, Colorado; the Jeepne program in the Philippines; and energy and housing reforms in New York State. While all three cases have adopted just transition rhetoric, through this lens, only the New York policy initiatives have transformative capability.

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