Imaging A Just Transition: Deploying the Ideals of Justice to Guide a Low Carbon Future

Authors: Mijin Cha*, Occidental College
Topics: Environment
Keywords: just transition, energy transition, justice, climate justice
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 4:40 PM / 5:55 PM
Room: Virtual 49
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

The question of what is “just” is fundamental to understanding what an equitable transition to a low-carbon future means for workers and communities. This specific context is especially fraught when we recognize the transition away from fossil fuels as a large-scale economic challenge, which is largely in the interest of public good, but for which individuals, some of whom are already among the most vulnerable, will pay the highest price. Understanding what is required for a “just” transition has led to a body of work that interrogates the idea of “just” through traditional ideals of distributional justice, procedural justice, restorative justice, and environmental justice (cf. William and Doyon, 2019; Newell and Mulvaney, 2013, and Heffron and McCauley, 2018) to present frameworks for decision-making that can be utilized for just outcomes. These ideals of “just” rest on the assumption that the transition away from fossil fuels can be done in a way that is just for all. Yet, while transitioning away from fossil fuels is fundamentally necessary to stave off the worst impacts of climate change, in doing so, there will be workers and communities that will be resistant to this transition and reject the process of transition. As such, any transition program will necessarily violate certain frameworks and principles of traditional ideas of justice. This paper analyzes what is required for the low-carbon transition to be “just,” given that there will be injustices as a result of decarbonization, even if transition policies are adopted to address and mitigate these injustices.

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