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Conceptualising Just Transition for Policy Analysis: a Framework for Multilevel Governance

Environmental Policy
Political Theory
Social Justice
Climate Change
Energy Policy
Teea Kortetmäki
University of Jyväskylä
Teea Kortetmäki
University of Jyväskylä
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Abstract

The pressing task of decarbonisation of the energy, food, and transport systems in European societies will have significant social, economic, and (non-climatic) environmental impacts. Concerns for the unjust impacts of decarbonisation have given rise to the concept of ‘just transition’ as a driving motif for social movements, public debate, and low-carbon (and sustainability) transition research. While the vivid discussion on just transition has produced an emerging research field and resulted in the introduction of the Green New Deal Fund proposal by the EC, the conceptual understanding of justice in just transition is lagging compared to these fast developments in the use of the notion in the public sphere. There is a risk that ‘just transition’ becomes an elusive concept without transformative potential, a buzzword adopted by all parties to promote their cause, or a reason to justify claims opposing any climate policies. Hence, there is a need for better conceptual understanding of justice in just transition. This paper contributes to this research need by developing and deepening the conceptual framework of just transition as it has been presented in just energy transition literature. Clarification is provided especially with relation to the questions: What kind of equality or fairness can just transition mean? How are the issues of multilevel governance placed in the just transition framework? The conceptual research in this paper draws on the three-/four-dimensional conception of just transition, used widely in the just energy transition literature, and amends it for theoretical rigour and for making the conceptualisation more relevant for conducting research on justice and multilevel governance for just transition. To test the developed framework, it is applied to provide a typology of justice in the ‘Blueprint for Europe’s Just Transition’ report (https://report.gndforeurope.com/) by the Democracy in Europe Movement of citizens, scientists, parties, and unions, and the ‘European Green Deal – Just Transition Fund’ proposal by the European Commission that has been open to comments in the early 2020 (https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/initiative/12113/publication/6242329/attachment/090166e5cb1a650e_en). Typologies are compared to shed light on two questions: what aspects of justice are covered in the documents, what remain unaddressed, and what kinds of criteria do these aspects set for the justness of low-carbon transition? Results are also discussed by reflecting upon the the use value of a conceptual justice framework for conducting just transition related political research.