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Contesting Transitions of Lignite Mining Regions: A Framework to Assess Bottom-Up and Top-Down Initiated Processes from a Just Transitions Perspective

Civil Society
Governance
Political Participation
Social Justice
Decision Making
Power
Maren Krätzschmar
Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster
Maren Krätzschmar
Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster

Abstract

Due to the planned coal phase-out, Germany’s lignite mining regions are in transition. Profound changes to the country’s energy systems work as a starting point for processes of regional transition, affecting social, ecological, and economical subsystems. Discussions about the future of the mining areas have recently gained momentum. Therein, civil society actors are often regarded as important for the transitions. However, their role and influence remain unclear – are they meant to co-shape transitions or shall they work on the implementation side, putting into practice what others have defined? From a just transition perspective, processes and outcomes of transitions can be assessed regarding their procedural justice, justice as recognition, and distributional justice. To gain a deeper understanding of the development of (in)just conditions, however, justice conceptualizations remain insufficient. Thus, the paper presents a framework informing just transitions with the power dimensions of Gaventa’s power cube. This way, it is possible to analyze power relations in transition processes and their repercussions on the different dimensions of justice. Other than large parts of research on civil society participation, mostly focusing on formal, top-down initiated and authority steered practices, the approach explicitly includes bottom-up civil society induced activities and the contestation of top-down practices. The view on power relations allows identifying and explaining mechanisms by which civil society actors are limited or enabled to co-shape regional transitions. Along the example of the Hambach Forest in the Rhineland Lignite Mining Region, the framework is illustrated and discussed. It shows anti-coal protestors’ use of different spaces and levels of resistance to challenge existing procedures, recognitions, and distributions.