1963-2018 - 55 years of Research for Social Change

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Back | Programme Area: Social Dimensions of Sustainable Development

Just Transition Research Collaborative (Phase I): Mapping Just Transition(s) to a Low-Carbon World

  • Project from: 2018 to 2018

The Just Transition Research Collaborative (JTRC) is a space for exchange and discussion that brings together a range of experts from academia and civil society to collectively map and analyse the different understandings and narratives of “Just Transition” underpinning the concept’s growing popularity and uptake. The project provides an important contribution to the science-policy dialogue around Just Transition, and offers policy recommendations on how the approach can be used to foster the transition to equitable low-carbon development.

The project is run jointly by UNRISD, Edouard Morena (University of London Institute in Paris) and Dimitris Stevis (Colorado State University) and supported by the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung.

See also:
Just Transition Research Collaborative (Phase II): Cities in Transition—Urban Struggles for Just Transition(s)
Just Transition Research Collaborative (Phase III): Virtual Collaboration Towards Transformative Change and Climate Justice for All

The Research Issue in Context

While the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change can be considered significant diplomatic milestones, the greatest challenge lies ahead: urgently and effectively implementing the required measures for achieving the agreed goals and targets to set the world on a sustainable, low-carbon and just development path.

The Just Transition is an eco-social approach to this fundamental challenge that combines environmental goals of low-carbon development with social considerations of equity and justice. The growing number of references to the Just Transition undoubtedly signals a desire to further root social concerns in the climate debate. But it also poses a challenge: with greater use of the term has come less clarity about what a Just Transition stands for, who is behind it and how it can play a positive role in the international climate debate.


The objective of the JTRC is to analyse the different understandings, narratives and framings of “Just Transition” that underpin the concept’s popularity and uptake; catalogue and categorize the various uses of the term; and produce a state-of-the-art report for COP24 in Katowice, Poland in December 2018 that advances understanding of the different meanings of and approaches to Just Transition. The project thereby provides an important contribution to the science-policy dialogue around Just Transition, and offers policy recommendations on how the Just Transition approach can be used to foster the transformation to equitable low-carbon development. The JTRC aims, subsequently, to produce a series of in-depth case studies selected Just Transition initiatives (see Just Transition Research Collaborative (Phase II): Cities in Transition—Urban Struggles for Just Transition(s)).

Outputs and Activities

The collaborative project brings together expertise and knowledge from researchers and civil society activists, and produced the following outputs and activities:

Online forum on Just Transition
In run-up to the UNFCCC first sessional period (May 2018) and in partnership with the International Social Science Council (ISSC), the project launched an online forum Just Transition(s) to a Low-Carbon World to which scholars and practitioners working on Just Transition were invited to contribute a series of think pieces.

The titles published:
JTRC workshop (5-6 May in Bonn, Germany)
During the first intersessional period, the JTRC held a workshop in Bonn to discuss key aspects of the Just Transition and debate dominant framings and narratives as well as selected case studies of the Just Transition. The workshop was also used to agree on the parameters of the collective mapping exercise that will inform the production of the state of the art report.

State-of-the-art report on Just Transition (December 2018)
Drawing on the JTRC’s collective mapping exercise, the report contributes to the ongoing and increasingly urgent debate on the role and place of equity and justice in the shift towards a low-carbon world. Adopting a social science lens, it provides scholars, activists and other stakeholders with an overview of:
  • The dominant understandings, framings and uses of “Just Transition” in different geographical (international, national and subnational) and thematic/sectoral (energy, development) contexts;
  • The potential overlaps, synergies and tensions between these different understandings;
  • The connections between Just Transition and ongoing international debates and processes (Sustainable Development Goals; climate change).

Download the report here.

The report also provides policy recommendations and explores how Just Transition could be better embedded into transition debates and policies. JTRC launched the report at a side event at COP24 where it also participated in a research-to-practice workshop and a further side event titled From Local Approaches to (Inter-)national Policy: Gender, Just Transition and Decent Work.

Edited volume (December 2019)
Off the back of the JTRC's work, Pluto Press is publishing a collection of contributions by academics and activists and edited by Edouard Morena, Dunja Krause and Dimitris Stevis, called Just Transitions. Social Justice in the Shift Towards a Low-Carbon World. It draws on a range of perspectives from the global North and South to interrogate the overlaps, synergies and tensions between various understandings of the Just Transition approach. As the concept is entering the mainstream, has it lost its radical edge, and if so, can it be recovered?

Engage with the Project

Please get in touch with Dunja Krause [dunja dot krause at un dot org] if you would like to learn more about the project and explore ways you could contribute to it. To keep posted on project and Just Transition-related news and events, sign up for JTRC mailing list here. You can also follow the Collaborative on Twitter @JTRC2018.


The project is funded by the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung with support from the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. In-kind support is provided by the University of London Institute in Paris.