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Event Summary

Just Transition Work Programme: What happened in Bonn and what comes next?

By Jonas Kuehl

Germany, Global,


Delegates at SB60 in Bonn, June 2024. Photo by IISD/ENB - Kiara Worth

The 60th session of the Subsidiary Bodies (SB60) of the UNFCCC in Bonn in June 2024 – also called the 2024 Bonn Climate Change Conference – marked a critical juncture for the Just Transition Work Programme (JTWP), revealing deep-seated disagreements and procedural hurdles. Established at COP27 and further defined at COP28, the JTWP aims to explore pathways for a just transition aligned with the goals of the Paris Agreement.  

The First Dialogue  

To implement the JTWP, two round table dialogues will be held each year between 2024 and 2026. These round table dialogues will aim to provide guidance on just transition pathways, while fostering locally relevant approaches. The first dialogue, held over two days just before SB60 (recordings are available for both day 1 and day 2), focused on incorporating just transition pathways into nationally determined contributions (NDCs), national adaptation plans (NAPs), and long-term low-emission development strategies (LT-LEDS). During this dialogue, participants including those representing national governments, civil society, trade unions, and business groups emphasised their respective priorities, which included:  

  • tailoring just transition actions to local contexts  
  • adopting a whole-of-government approach 
  • aligning with Paris Agreement goals while safeguarding the rights of workers and vulnerable groups 

Familiar Roadblocks 

The subsequent contact group meetings, co-chaired by Marianne Karlsen (Norway) and Kishan Kumarsingh (Trinidad and Tobago), aimed to build on the initial dialogue. However, the meetings encountered some significant roadblocks, which resulted in the initial draft text shared on June 5 being criticised for lacking detail and balance. Disagreements during the meetings centred around the establishment of a detailed work plan: a proposal brought to the table by the G77 coalition of developing countries, including China, and supported by the African Group and the Like-Minded Developing Countries (LMDCs). These countries advocated for a structured approach, while developed countries, in particular Australia, Canada, the European Union, Japan, and the United States, argued that the work plan was premature. The latter group emphasised the need for more time to build consensus on the overarching goals and to assess capacity before committing to specific steps for implementation. 

The discussions also revealed deeper divisions on the programme’s scope and implementation. Significant disagreement arose in relation to the timing and nature of future dialogues, with debates over whether they should be held intersessionally or in conjunction with other meetings. This contention stalled consensus as countries—also known as “parties”—struggled to agree on the most effective and inclusive format. The selection of topics for future dialogues was also contentious, with parties debating whether the Subsidiary Body (SB) chairs should decide on the topics in consultation with parties and stakeholders or on the basis of party submissions. By June 10, language disputes were making these tensions more apparent, with parties debating whether to “take note” of or “welcome” the initial dialogue.  

Lack of Consensus 

The final days of the negotiations saw a persistent lack of agreement on clear, actionable steps, leading to procedural conclusions being drafted by the co-chairs. On June 12, Co-Chair Kumarsingh acknowledged the lack of consensus in the draft procedural conclusions forwarded to the SB chairs. These conclusions reflected the procedural focus that dominated the meetings and left substantive issues unresolved. To guide future meetings, the co-chairs also put together an informal note in their capacity, summarising the discussions and highlighting areas needing further negotiation. 

The recurring disagreements on the JTWP’s focus revealed a broader division between developed and developing countries. Developed countries generally view the JTWP as job-centric, concentrating mainly on employment impacts and economic transitions. In contrast, developing countries argue for a broader scope that encompasses social justice, environmental sustainability, and comprehensive economic transformation. This division has only grown since COP 28, where initial agreement on the JTWP’s elements was reached but detailed implementation strategies were deferred. The persistent disputes on the modalities and themes to be discussed underscored these divisions, with both sides reluctant to compromise on key issues. Concerns were raised, particularly by civil society, that substantive progress was at risk of being overshadowed by the focus on procedure, with the JTWP accused of becoming a “talk shop” without effective strategies for implementation.  

Next Steps for the JTWP 

The final conclusions in Bonn have provided a procedural framework for continuing the discussions at SB61 in Baku. The adopted conclusions acknowledge the informal note prepared by the co-chairs and include new language that emphasises systematic coverage of work programme elements, but leaves the contentious issue of a detailed work plan unresolved. The conclusions further welcome the first hybrid dialogue under the work programme and encourage the SB chairs to publish an informal summary of the discussions of the first dialogue. They reiterate that the topic of the second hybrid dialogue, which will be held before SB61, will be decided by the SB chairs in consultation with parties (countries), observers, and other non-party stakeholders in a transparent and open way. Lastly, the conclusions emphasise the importance of ensuring that parties and non-party stakeholders can participate effectively and in the second dialogue, encouraging the chairs to consider interactive engagement formats.  

Ultimately, the SB60 meetings that took place in Bonn in June 2024 shed light on the complex challenges of achieving consensus on just transition pathways. While the procedural conclusions provide a framework for ongoing discussions, substantive work still needs to be done. The focus now shifts to COP 29 in Baku, where countries will be expected to build on these foundations with concrete, actionable plans that will ensure justice and equity in the transition to a sustainable future. The journey towards just transition involves navigating diverse national contexts and priorities. With this in mind, the upcoming negotiations will need to move beyond procedural agreements to deliver tangible outcomes that address the needs and rights of all stakeholders involved in the transition. 

Jonas Kuehl is a policy advisor at the International Institute for Sustainable Development and a member of the JET-CR Knowledge Hub editorial team.

Stay tuned for our video featuring reflections on the first JTWP dialogue from those who took part. We’ll hear from trade unions, civil society, youth, women and gender groups, as well as country representatives on their key takeaways and most memorable moments from the dialogue. Coming soon!

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