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What Is a Just Transition for Environmental Targets?

The term “just transition” is regularly used in multilateral discussions to agree on environmental targets. While definitions differ, just transition approaches aim to address potential sources of unfairness to provide better outcomes for different groups of people.

Justice issues can arise from proactive climate action undertaken to tackle climate change, but also from reactively adapting to the impacts of unpreventable climate change and biodiversity loss. Individual vulnerability is a combination of these. Action may place unaffordable costs on people and nations who are the most politically, socially, and economically marginalized.

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Major justice issues are most likely to arise when there is a perception of unfairness—for example, where groups are disproportionately disadvantaged or advantaged or if measures are not accessible to all. Procedural and distributional justice issues are two of the most common and require different approaches. Procedural injustice—where groups of people may feel their rights or viewpoints have been ignored or not considered in the first place, or their concerns have not been adequately addressed—may require addressing power imbalances. Distributional justice concerns vary on a sector-by-sector basis but relate to a perception of fairness around who pays, who is helped with costs, and who benefits.

For some groups, there are outstanding, unrectified injustices domestically or overseas resulting from damage or actions in the past by the British state or companiesThere is also disagreement on whether compensation should be dealt with separately from just transition issuesas it is for historical rather than future injustices. 

This report considers transitions to meet environmental targets and how their costs and benefits for different members of society can be distributed fairly.

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