20 Sep 2023
Just Transition Initiative And Why It’s Crucial For Global South
In a world where the urgency of climate action is undeniable, a new initiative has taken shape that puts the focus on ‘just transition’ in the Global South. ClimateWorks Foundation and the IKEA Foundation have joined hands to place the voices and well-being of workers and communities in the Global South at the forefront of […]

In a world where the urgency of climate action is undeniable, a new initiative has taken shape that puts the focus on ‘just transition’ in the Global South. ClimateWorks Foundation and the IKEA Foundation have joined hands to place the voices and well-being of workers and communities in the Global South at the forefront of the global energy transformation. 

Severe weather patterns have resulted in adverse impacts on both ecosystems and communities, with disproportionate consequences for economically disadvantaged nations that bear minimal responsibility for the escalation in worldwide temperatures. This is where just transition becomes crucial as it helps to meet climate goals without ignoring the less privileged communities. 

The core principles of just transition looks at providing countries most affected by climate change and least responsible for it the means and measures to transition into a climate positive world. Last year at COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, the European Commission together with the International Labour Organization hosted the first ever Just Transition Pavilion, highlighting the significance of it at the annual UN climate conference. A work programme on just transition was established at COP27 notifying how just transition cannot be equated with decarbonisation, but with low-carbon development. The cover decision highlighted that sustainable and just solutions are needed for meaningful and effective social dialogue and participation of all stakeholders is imperative.

So the current fund announcement couldn’t have come at a better time, just 10 weeks ahead of COP28. The IKEA Foundation’s $20 million seed funding over four years will look into exactly this transition. It will champion Just Transition Plans co-created with community voices to encourage local climate action and also facilitate a transition beneficial to all.  This initiative, with its initial focus on Indonesia, South Africa, and Vietnam, will focus on local climate action, foster economic resilience, and ensure that the energy transition benefits all.

What Is Just Transition?

For an economy that is heavily reliant on fossil fuels, the transition to clean energy has to be sustainable, equitable, and “just” for all members of society, particularly those who are most affected by climate change.

A ‘just transition’ is a framework and set of principles aimed at ensuring that the shift from a fossil-fuel-dependent economy to a more sustainable and clean energy future is fair, equitable, and inclusive. It acknowledges that such transitions can have profound impacts on workers, communities, and economies, and it seeks to mitigate the negative consequences while maximisng the benefits.

Just transition aims to achieve equity and fairness in transitioning to a low-carbon economy, and confer benefits to all stakeholders, including workers, communities, and the environment. This process requires profound changes in energy production, consumption, and utilisation, thereby presenting consequential social and economic implications.

The key components of a just transition in the Global South would involve meaningful participation of affected communities and workers in decision-making processes and the design of transition plans. It would also mean Investment in new industries and sectors that create jobs and opportunities, reducing dependence on high-carbon industries. Another crucial aspect is skill development to prepare workers for employment in the renewable energy sector and other sustainable industries. Establishment of safety nets and support systems to protect vulnerable individuals and communities during the transition is important. Besides supportive policies and regulations, the communities should also have access to affordable finance for green projects and sustainable businesses.

just transition

Why Does Just Transition Matter?

Addressing the climate crisis requires swift and meaningful action to reduce global emissions, making the transition to renewable energy imperative. But transitioning to a low-carbon economy can have significant social and economic impacts on communities and workers, particularly those who work in industries that rely on fossil fuels. As per reports, it is affecting roughly 32 million individuals who work in high-carbon industries. Clear and comprehensive plans to reskill workers and offer alternative sources of livelihood are crucial to facilitating the transition process and minimsing economic, social, and political challenges.

A just transition should not disproportionately harm marginalsed communities. Climate actions have to benefit the most vulnerable and take into account the poor and working-class people. It should take into account creation of new job opportunities in green and sustainable industries, providing support and training for workers who need to transition out of industries that rely on fossil fuels. 

By adopting a multi-faceted approach that addresses the social and economic challenges of the transition, businesses can promote equity and inclusivity, foster resilience and sustainability, and support the development of a low-carbon economy.

How is Just Transition Beneficial?

As the world races towards a future powered by clean energy, it’s easy to get caught up in the promise of a greener tomorrow. However, the transition is not without its challenges, especially for the millions who depend on high-carbon industries for their livelihoods. This transition must be just, fair, and equitable, leaving no one behind. It requires more than policies and investments; it demands a “Just Transition”.

As the Global South navigates the complex terrain of energy transformation, initiative’s such as the current fund  stands as a testament to the power of collaboration, empathy, and vision. Besides the establishment of the Just Transition Work Program at COP27, the UN annual conference emphasized on how inclusive social dialogue was vital for just transition, involving all stakeholders such as workers, employers, and communities. Additionally, it also focuses on mobilising financial resources to support developing countries in creating and executing their transition plans. 

just transition

Global South Energy Shift 

The importance of ‘Just Transition’ cannot be overstated. It’s not merely about combating climate change; it’s about creating a world where equity, economic development, innovation, and partnerships thrive. 

To support the current Just Energy Transition Programs (JETPs) of Indonesia, South Africa, and Vietnam, the initiative will enable workers and communities who depend on high-carbon industries to shape decisions in policy-making spaces that affect their lives. It complements other philanthropic and multilateral efforts, such as the Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet (GEAPP), and can bolster clean energy investments in the Global South.

Per Heggenes, CEO of the IKEA Foundation, said, “Successfully addressing the climate crisis requires a rapid, significant and sustained fall in global emissions. However, large numbers of workers and communities across the Global South are dependent on high-carbon industries for their livelihoods. Without the necessary support to these communities, countries will be unable and unwilling to transition to renewable energy. Not only is it critical to addressing climate change, it also promotes equity and economic development, fosters innovation, and builds partnerships”

The initiative will:

  • Identify affected groups and analyse the economic impact these groups will face to provide a holistic view of Just Transition plans.
  • Convene national and international dialogues with government, labor unions, technology providers, utilities, and civil society to encourage participatory development of Just Transition plans.
  • Support strategic communications capacity to build compelling narratives about Just Transition at the local, state, and global levels.
  • Enable community-driven initiatives to communicate effectively by quantifying the economic and social benefits of Just Transition policies, then demand government action.

“As global economies move away from polluting fossil fuels, we need just energy transitions that leave no one behind,” said Helen Mountford, president and CEO of ClimateWorks Foundation. “The IKEA Foundation’s generous grant provides the opportunity to support strategies that put affected workers and communities at the heart of climate action and clean energy development in the Global South. This initiative is unique in its ability to champion fair and equitable outcomes for all involved in a fast-changing energy landscape.”

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