Published on January 19, 2018

The Just Transition Research Collaborative (JTRC)

Text by Edouard Morena

Photo by Berber Verpoest

The post-COP21 context was marked by the proliferation of references to the Just Transition (JT) in policy circles, among NGOs, business interests, think tanks and foundations: From Bloomberg to Greenpeace, to We Mean Business and the World Resources Institute (WRI). From being a concept largely associated with grassroots and community-based initiatives in the US and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) at the global policy level, the JT concept has now been taken up by a wide range of stakeholders in the climate debate.

This abundance of references to JT undeniably signals a desire to further root social and equity concerns into the climate debate. While this should be welcomed, it also raises a number of questions and poses a set of challenges for those involved in the climate debate as it complicates the task of identifying what JT stands for, who is behind it and what is the underlying theory of change.How is the JT concept mobilized? Who mobilizes it? What theories of change and worldviews are associated with it? Is JT simply another “buzzword”? Can it play a positive role in the international climate debate?

To answer these questions, a group of researchers has recently launched a Just Transition Research Collaborative (JTRC). Jointly run by the University of London Institute in Paris (ULIP) and United Nations Research Instite for Social Development (UNRISD), the Collaborative currently brings together approximately 20 researchers from North America, Europe, Australia and South Africa who are interested in and/or working on the JT concept (and more generally the justice and equity dimensions of the shift towards a low-carbon economy).

Its two primary objectives are to:

– Undertake a collaborative and comprehensive mapping exercise whereby we will identify and categorize the different understandings of the Just Transition (JT) concept, as well as the groups and worldviews associated with each understanding;

– Produce (in a second phase) a series of case studies on JT-related initiatives in the Global North and South.

The network’s wider purpose is to:

– Use the Just Transition concept as a means of getting academics from the humanities and social sciences – rather than just economists and hard scientists – to take up and more systematically engage in discussions on the social and equity dimensions of climate change and the necessary shift towards a low-carbon world – with economists, climate engineers and scientists, other social scientists, policy-makers, civil society actors;

– Get universities, research institutes and research councils across the globe – academic and administrative staff, students – to more systematically reflect on their own responsibilities in the climate crisis and their promotion, through their research, teaching and everyday activities, of insufficient or inadequate solutions to it. In the process, using the network as a means of sharing best practices and developing new approaches to research and teaching that address the social dimensions of climate change;

– Create a shared space for the planning, production and dissemination of policy- and stakeholder-relevant research on the Just Transition; research that draws on and expands existing qualitative and quantitative social science and humanities research and expertise and provides a “systems-change” and “social and environmental justice” lens to ongoing discussions at the international, regional and national levels;

To receive more information and/or wish to get involved in the JTRC, please contact Edouard Morena (