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Justice in the transition to a low carbon economy

June 2016 – The third of three working papers exploring the meaning of a 'just transition' to a low carbon economy. The transition requires the involvement of a range of actors for whom both the outcome and the process of achieving a low carbon economy must be fair. The concept of justice takes a central place in the interactions among policymakers, businesses and civil society. In this report we consider how a justice approach could inform sustainability leaders in policymaking and business circles.

Download the working paper.Justice in transition

Publication date

June 2016

Abstract

Transitioning to a low carbon economy represents one of the most significant and urgent challenges facing society today. There remains a pressing need to engage with the fairness of the social, economic and environmental impacts associated with the transition.

The transition will, of necessity, require the involvement and support of a diverse range of actors for whom both the outcome and the process of achieving a low carbon economy must be fair. The concept of justice takes a central place in the interactions among policymakers, businesses and civil society. In this report we consider how a justice approach could inform sustainability leaders in policy-making and business circles.

The rationale for a study on the implications of justice for the transition has grown out of Rewiring the Economy, which constitutes CISL’s ten-year plan to lay the foundations for a sustainable economy. Within this framework businesses are being encouraged to seek models of value creation that generate a fair social contribution within the natural boundaries of the planet.

In this context, the subject of this paper is to:

  • review the various conceptions of justice
  • explore how it has been taken up in key international policy and business circles
  • present well-known ´thinking tools´ that may support decision-making towards more explicitly just transitions to a low carbon economy
  • Conclude with some worked examples of how such approaches might usefully inform policy and corporate sustainability strategies.

Authors

Dr André Silveira, Postdoctoral Researcher, CISL and Dr Paul Pritchard, Fellow, CISL

This Working Paper was also informed and guided by a CISL cross-organisation working group. Members include: Lindsay Hooper, Mike Peirce, Dr Louise Driffill, Dr Tom Herbstein, Eliot Whittington, Dr Kayla Friedman and Nikki Bartlett.

Citation

Silveira, A. & Pritchard, P., (2016), 'Justice in the transition to a low carbon economy', University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL), Working Paper 04/2016

Dr André Silveira has conducted post-doctoral research on the meanings of justice, transition and just transition at CISL. He is currently a post-doctoral researcher in the Institute of Social Sciences, University of Lisbon, and a member of its research group on environment and society. In 2014 he completed a PhD at the University of Cambridge on the adaptive capacity of water governance systems in China and Western Europe.

About our working papers

Working papers are circulated for discussion purposes only. Their contents should be considered preliminary and are not to be quoted without the authors' permission. All views expressed are those of the author.

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