SS19. Visions of a Just Transition: On Social-Ecological Inequalities and Transformations

The concept of “just transition” has evolved from a reactive project aimed at safeguarding workers in polluting industries into a comprehensive eco-social project pursuing intertwined environmental and social justice objectives. Yet the precise definition and implementation of a just transition remain debated, opening a rich discussion avenue not only for those focused on “just transition" but also for scholars exploring wider socio-ecological justice issues. This session, aiming for future-oriented analyses, invites contributions focusing on various visions, scenarios, imaginaries, trajectories, and conceptualizations of just transition, including scenarios of just transition across different scales and contexts, justice in socio-ecological transformations, and the dynamics of socio-ecological inequalities amid ongoing societal transformations. This open session encourages a wide range of methodological approaches and interdisciplinary explorations. Post-conference, the aim is to collate discussions into a special issue or a collective document, potentially extending the dialogue through additional formats like a round-table discussion.

  • Expected proposals format: conventional panel contributions
  • Keywords: just transition, justice, inequalities, visioning, socio-ecological transformations, scenarios
  • Related track(s): 4. Political economy and political ecology / 10. Challenging dominant values, ideologies, and imaginaries
  • Organizers: Vastenaekels, Julien (Université libre de Bruxelles, Belgium); Fransolet, Aurore (Université libre de Bruxelles, Belgium); Bauler, Tom (Université libre de Bruxelles, Belgium); Vielle, Pascale (Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium); Coolsaet, Brendan (Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium)

Full description

The concept of Just Transition, originating from American trade union dialogues in the 1990s (Ciplet, 2022; Stevis and Felli, 2020), has progressively permeated global political discourses. This permeation is evidenced by its adoption as a guiding principle in the 2015 Paris Agreement and the COP 26 Just Transition Declaration in 2021 by a coalition of nations including the United Kingdom, the European Union, Canada, New Zealand, Norway, and the United States (Jones, 2022; Ciplet, 2022; Galgóczi 2022; Abram et al., 2022; Stevis and Felli, 2020). The international recognition and expanding popularity among a diverse array of actors such as trade unions, environmental justice movements, governments, and corporations (Wilgosh et al, 2022; Galgóczi 2022; Stevis and Felli, 2020; Córdova et al., 2022), have fostered a multiplicity of just transition conceptions (La Gioia et al., 2023; Cha and Pastor, 2022; Krause et al., 2022; Burke 2022; Galgóczi 2022; Wang and Lo, 2021; Jones, 2022; Stevis and Felli, 2020). This multiplicity has further broadened its semantic scope from an initial social project aimed at safeguarding workers in polluting industries (Wilgosh et al, 2022; Abram et al., 2022) to a comprehensive eco-social project pursuing intertwined environmental and social justice objectives (Krause et al., 2022; Ciplet, 2022; Cha and Pastor, 2022; Burke 2022; Bauler et al., 2021; Clarke and Lipsig-Mummé, 2020). 

The rationale underpinning this comprehensive approach to just transition hinges on the symbiotic relationship between sustainability and justice objectives. Environmental imperatives present opportunities to alleviate existing societal inequalities (Krause et al., 2022; Cha and Pastor, 2022; Abram et al., 2022; Galgóczi 2022), while reduced inequalities can expedite the transition toward a sustainable society by enhancing the social acceptability of environmental policies (Laurent, 2023; Krause et al., 2022; Stevis and Felli, 2020). In many ways, the concept of just transition resonates with key principles of ecological economics and degrowth, and has been analysed and critiqued from ecological economics (McCauley et al., 2023; Purvis & Genovese, 2023) and degrowth perspectives (Barca, 2019).

Accompanying the escalating political interest is a burgeoning body of research. This includes discourse and vision analyses (La Gioia et al., 2023; Wilgosh et al., 2022; Barnes et al., 2022; Didier, 2020; Morena et al., 2018), governance avenues (Tschersich and Kok, 2022; Bauler et al., 2021; Schwanen, 2021; Laurent, 2021; Routledge, 2018), and empirical explorations into specific strategies, places, and sectors (Filipovic et al., 2022; McCauley et al., 2023; Luke, 2023; Galgóczi, 2022). 

The certain advent of significant socio-ecological transitions and transformations is bringing longstanding justice issues to the fore. However, it is much less clear and consensual what exactly a just transition entails and how it should be concretely realised, with debates around notions of justice and pathways for realizing a just transition (de Boon et al., 2023; Schlosberg, 2013). This is an interesting avenue of discussion not just for researchers already focused on “just transition,” but also more broadly for scholars concerned with socio-ecological justice issues of all kinds.

Objective of the session: This open special session aims to convene a series of dialogues focusing on various visions, scenarios, imaginaries, trajectories, and conceptualizations of just transition, with a particular emphasis on future-oriented analyses. The session seeks to convene scholars with a pedigree in the many important dimensions of socio-ecological justice(s), as well as scholars interested in the inequalities of transitions and change, as well as research on the realm of the just transition. 

This session seeks to gather contributions from various perspectives which may include but are not limited to:

  • Conceptualizations of just transition and of justice in socio-ecological transformations
  • Interrogating assumptions and elisions within established visions 
  • Scenarios of/for a just transition at multiple scales and across various contexts
  • Transforming existing institutions and systems (e. g. social welfare) for a just transition
  • Determination, qualification, and dynamics of socio-ecological inequalities within the ongoing transformations of our societies
  • Inventing modes of governance for a just transition
  • Compatibility and tensions with degrowth and/or understandings from ecological economics 
  • Methodological approaches for visioning just transition pathways
  • Exploring and comparing (the production of) just transition visions from policy, activism, industry, academia, communities etc.
  • Power dynamics and just transition visions

We welcome scholars, practitioners, and policymakers to submit Abstracts that align with the theme. The session is open to a wide range of methodological approaches and interdisciplinary explorations. Through this collaborative endeavor, this session seeks to construct a platform for a multi-dimensional exploration of Just Transition. Depending on the extend of the gathered interest and dynamics, we might strive for a double parallel session. If possible adding non-paper presenting formats (i. e. a round-table) which allow to start a multi-actor/multi-perspective dialogue and exchange on the domain. Our post-conference objective is to gather papers in a special issue, or a collective working document. 


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