The concept of Just Transition (JT) has emerged through an ongoing process of articulation between climate justice movements and labor organisations, and has evolved into one of the most innovative and promising proposals to address climate change and the ecological crisis more broadly. Coming from different histories, Climate Justice movements and Labor movements are converging towards a vision of the post-carbon transition as an epochal opportunity for doing justice to historically disadvantaged communities, and for making people’s lives better.

With its roots going back to the 1980s as labor’s version of environmental justice in North America, over the past decade JT has been adopted by the international labor movement as its official plan for transforming the productive system (energy, manufacturing, transport, and related infrastructures) toward a zero-emissions target, while making sure that workers and their communities are not wasted away in the process, but become lead actors in the transition. 

At the same time, climate-related catastrophes have also increased, overwhelmingly impacting the people least responsible for causing global warming historically: BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) communities, peasants, women and LGBTQI+ people, and youth. In response, these communities call for the need to decolonise climate leadership, by making sure that climate and environmental injustice are recognized as resulting from a history of colonial, patriarchal and racial violence, and that their lives, struggles and life projects are recognised as an essential part of the solution to climate crisis. This is why environmental and climate-justice organizations have adopted and readapted the JT idea in their own terms.

Labor and climate justice organizations share a common vision of how the climate and ecological crisis results from the deep-rooted and wide-ranging inequalities that structure our globalized economy, and that an effective post-carbon transition requires recognizing and addressing the differentiated responsibilities and impacts of the crisis. 

The CCL Just Transition theme will be a unique opportunity for contributing to transformative climate politics by positioning Black, Indigenous, peasant, feminist, queer, youth and working-class perspectives front and center in climate change leadership research and education, with a view to usher in a paradigm shift towards climate justice.

Stefania Barca, the Fourth Zennström Professor in Climate Change Leadership, will be approaching this field through a variety of entry points, which include engaging publics with films, texts and art exhibitions to explore the stories of Just Transition movements around the world. Experts will be brought to Uppsala through a multi-stakeholder webinar series during 2021 in the lead up to a European Just Transition Conference in May 2022. We embrace the term “lab” to capture the experimental nature of our approaches in the diverse and dynamic field of Just Transition.

For an excellent introduction to the Just Transition debate, check out the following webinar series:

For more information and links about Just Transition, see our project on Just Transition and Care, a list of resources, and our ongoing reflections connected to this theme.