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The multiple meanings of justice in the context of the transition to a low carbon economy

June 2016 – The first of three working papers exploring the meaning of a 'just transition' to a low carbon economy. This paper reviews the meanings of justice. It begins by summarising major moral interpretations of justice, and then turns to consider the main theoretical elements of justice: equitable distribution, recognition (eg of others' needs and rights), equal participation and equal capabilities.

Download the working paper.Multiple meanings justice

Publication date

June 2016

Abstract

This paper reviews the meanings of justice. It begins by summarising major moral interpretations of justice, and then turns to consider the main theoretical elements of justice: equitable distribution, recognition (eg of others’ needs and rights), equal participation and equal capabilities.

Various practical applications of these dimensions are then canvassed. Finally, the piece turns to the challenges that interactions between society and the environment present for environmental justice across time and at multiple spatial scales.

Transitions to low carbon are likely to alter the way environmental costs and benefits are distributed and recognised within societies. The justice implications of those changes may need to be assessed at every step, and in a manner that is well adjusted to societal conditions and the environmental complexity of the issues. Who participates in deciding what that transition looks like, how it might be made ‘just’, and how it could be managed across time and space, will affect possibilities and outcomes. An inclusive and transparent strategy of deliberation across public, private and civil society sectors, with the assistance of leading thinkers, is likely to be a difficult but crucial way forward.  

Authors

Dr André Silveira, Postdoctoral Researcher, CISL

CISL’s work on a Just Transition to a Low Carbon Economy is informed and guided by a cross-organisation working group: Lindsay Hooper, Mike Pierce, Louise Driffill, Tom Herbstein, Eliot, Kayla, and Nikki Bartlett.

Citation

Silveira, A. (2016), 'The multiple meanings of justice in the context of the transition to a low carbon economy', University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL), Working Paper 02/2016

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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