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Just Transition Work Programme: Everything you need to know

By Cece Coleman



Consultations take place at Bonn Climate Change Conference, June 2023. Photo by IISD/ENB – Kiara Worth

What is the Just Transition Work Programme?

The Just Transition Work Programme  (JTWP) is a new initiative of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that aims to promote pathways which ensure that the goals of the Paris Agreement are achieved justly and equitably. These pathways should be multi-faceted (including energy, socio-economic, workforce and other dimensions) and must include social protection, but they must also be specific to country contexts by considering nationally defined development priorities.

The essence of the work programme is knowledge exchange via multilateral collaboration, with biannual round table dialogues as its primary modality. The first of these dialogues will take place on June 2 and 3, 2024—in a hybrid format to allow both in-person and virtual participation—immediately before the 60th sessions of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) and the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI), the two permanent subsidiary bodies of the UNFCCC. Through its approach, the JTWP seeks to address the challenges posed by climate change (including adaptation and climate resilience), while also working against global inequity.

How did the JTWP come about?

The JTWP was established in 2022 as a part of the COP 27 cover decision outlined in the Sharm el Sheikh Implementation Plan. The SBI and SBSTA then created a draft decision to be considered at COP 28, where the programme’s objectives were defined and adopted on December 13, 2023.

Has anything like this been done before?

The JTWP is not the first high-level dialogue of its kind. There are other climate discussions under the UNFCCC, such as dialogues on children and climate change, climate empowerment, mitigation, and transparency. However, none have revolved around transition alone. The programme’s recognition of labour rights, social protection, and social dialogue is a notable success for workers, who have been leading the just transition conversation thus far. There is also emphasis on the importance of inclusive and participatory approaches that leave no one behind for just transition, and on international cooperation as an enabler of such pathways. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), the JTWP is “a historic new work programme on just transition,” emphasising both its significance and its novelty.

Who will participate in the JTWP, and what will be discussed in the first dialogue?

The JTWP is implemented under the guidance of the SBI and SBSTA, with support from the UN Climate Change Secretariat. The parties to the UNFCCC—the 198 countries that have ratified the UNFCCC convention—are the main participants of the round tables. However, various non-party stakeholders, such as admitted non-governmental organisations (NGOs), are also invited to participate as observers in the dialogue.

All parties, observers, and other non-party stakeholders were invited to submit their views on work to be undertaken under the work programme, as well as possible topics for the dialogues, until mid-February 2024. Many took up the opportunity. On this basis, the SBI and SBSTA chairs announced that the The agenda of the session reveals that the dialogue will address this from two broad perspectives: lessons in incorporating just transition into these national plans; and the role of international cooperation to achieve this, including discussions on support needs, best practices, and further opportunities.

Which challenges is the JTWP likely to face in its implementation?

Although the JTWP aims to take a holistic approach and encourages consideration of the relevant outcomes of the work programme by UNFCCC-constituted bodies and under relevant work programmes, it may prove difficult for it to encompass all the necessary components. For example, while the programme recognises inclusion and participation as core elements of a just transition, its current participatory processes could fall short. Giving equal consideration to all stakeholder submissions prior to dialogue is no easy feat. This challenge echoes the concerns of civil society about the level of the JTWP’s ambition to deliver a truly just transition.

Additionally, the JTWP may struggle to define a clear set of global standards for just transition pathways due to the diversity in national strategies. Although it is important to foster pathways that are tailored to local realities, creating a coherent framework through international cooperations could accelerate policy development.

The first dialogue takes place in Bonn in June 2024. What will the next steps be under the JTWP in the coming years?

The JTWP is set to schedule two dialogues each year from 2024 to 2026. There are two concrete follow-ups to the dialogues: firstly, the chairs of the subsidiary bodies are required to prepare an annual summary report on the dialogues; secondly, the secretariat has the mandate to prepare a report summarising information on the activities under the JTWP with a view to that report informing the second global stocktake, including its technical dialogue.

Finally, the continuation of the programme beyond November 2026 is undecided. As per the decision taken at COP 28, the programme’s efficacy is to be assessed at COP 31. Based on this assessment, the parties to the Paris Agreement will then decide whether to extend its duration.

Cece Coleman is a third-year Biochemistry student at Smith College, a private liberal arts women’s college in the U.S., and an intern at the International Institute for Sustainable Development working with the Just Energy Transition in Coal Regions Knowledge Hub.

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