Just transition and governments

Anna Triponel

November 22, 2022
Our key takeaway: Many governments are beginning to reference just transition in their Nationally Determined Contributions and Long-Term Strategies (the strategies they use to implement the Paris Agreement). However, UNDP finds that the way just transition is addressed misses the mark. The recommendations it provides to governments are equally helpful for companies implementing just transition strategies: consider all stakeholders impacts; move from participation to active empowerment of stakeholders and vulnerable groups; and reform existing systems that undermine climate equity and social equality. Both governments and companies are under the spotlight for how they are integrating principle of just transition into their work. By working together, they can learn from the other’s approaches and create tailored meaningful just transition approaches that work for those impacted by the transition. 

The UN Development Programme (UNDP) published “How Just Transition Can Help Deliver the Paris Agreement” (November 2022). The report focusses on the work of the UNDP’s Climate Promise Initiative, supporting countries to embed just transition into their NDCs and LTS:

  • The imperative of including just transition: Countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and Long-Term Strategies (LTS) are critical tools under the Paris Agreement. They offer countries a roadmap—respectively, short-term (5-year) and long-term (20- to 30-year)—for navigating the “scale, scope, and speed of environmental and economic transformation” required to achieve the Paris Agreement. Thus, UNDP argues that it is essential that these roadmaps put “issues of justice, inclusivity, and transparency … at the heart of transformation.” This just transition approach is essential for climate action: securing broad public support and thus more resilient change; and fixing our vision on whole-of-society approaches while also promoting contextualised solutions. But it also advances numerous Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as well. Above all, the just transition helps “jump-start a brand new era: that of the green revolution … that truly leaves no-one behind.”
  • The opportunity for a more transformative approach: Many countries are beginning to reference just transition in their Nationally Determined Contributions and Long-Term Strategies. As of 31 October 2022, 38 percent of NDCs and 56 percent of LTS reference just transition. At the same time, the report finds there is often insufficient detail about how the just transition will be implemented in practice. Moreover, many countries narrowly focus on specific sectors and stakeholders to the detriment of whole-of-society and whole-of-economy approaches. The report recommends: addressing the impacts of economic change for all sectors and stakeholders; moving beyond a basic participation of stakeholders and vulnerable groups to their active empowerment; and showing a willingness to look at, and if necessary to reform, the “existing systems that undermine climate equity and social equality.” To give two concrete examples, the report emphasises the importance of the agricultural sector for both a green and just transition; and highlights the need to pinpoint the gender-differentiated impacts of economic transformation.
  • UNDP’s framework for incorporating just transition: Under the Climate Promise Initiative, the UNDP has supported 34 countries and territories to strengthen their approach to just transition and its integration into NDCs and LTS. The report unpacks four areas of support, the first of which is assisting with transition assessment and modelling (particularly through overcoming data gaps). Second, the UNDP helps with social dialogue and stakeholder consultation; and third, with building national capacity for delivering just transition, not least through facilitating knowledge-sharing across countries and regions. Finally, UNDP can assist in the area of finance: effectively costing promoting, and scaling-up private sector investment in renewable energy. The remainder of the report profiles how this support has played out through five country case studies: Serbia, South Africa, Costa Rica, India, and Antigua and Barbuda. 

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