Before delving into how to decarbonize industry, it’s important to recenter the justice perspective with regards to work. With the potential for rapid shuttering of certain industries and expansion of others, there is a profound need to protect both workers and unions from the inevitable attempts of big business to use the transition to consolidate their power. The transition to a low-carbon economy can also be one where we reevaluate the nature of work, focusing on the aspects of society that promote human flourishing rather than profit generation.
There are existing principles, including the Principles of Environmental Justice and Jemez Principles for Democratic Organizing, that have been important in guiding our work. The Just Transition principles below are an attempt to consolidate and synthesize various Just Transition principles from among CJA members and allies, built off the deep work and discussions amongst ourselves. Understanding that Just Transition will look different in different places, we believe a core set of shared principles can strengthen our collective work.
A Just Transition moves us toward Buen Vivir
Buen Vivir means that we can live well without living better at the expense of others. Workers, community residents, women and Indigenous Peoples around the world have a fundamental human right to clean, healthy and adequate air, water, land, food, education and shelter. We must have just relationships with each other and with the natural world, of which we are a part. The rights of peoples, communities and nature must supercede the rights of the individual.
A Just Transition creates Meaningful Work
A Just Transition centers on the development of human potential, creating opportunities for people to learn, grow, and develop to their full capacities and interests. We are all born leaders, and a regenerative economy supports and nurtures that leadership. In the process, we are transforming ourselves, each other, our communities, and our society as a whole. Meaningful work is life-affirming.
A Just Transition upholds Self Determination
All peoples have the right to participate in decisions that impact their lives. This requires democratic governance in our communities, including our workplaces. Communities must have the power to shape their economies, as producers, as consumers, and in our relationships with each other. Not only do we have the right to self determination, but self determination is one of our greatest tools to realize the world we need. The people who are most affected by the extractive economy — the frontline workers and the fenceline communities — have the resilience and expertise to be in the leadership of crafting solutions.
A Just Transition equitably redistributes Resources and Power
We must work to build new systems that are good for all people, and not just a few. Just Transition must actively work against and transform current and historic social inequities based on race, class, gender, immigrant status and other forms of oppression. Just Transition fights to reclaim capital and resources for the regeneration of geographies and sectors of the economy where these inequities are most pervasive.
A Just Transition requires Regenerative Ecological Economics
Just Transition must advance ecological resilience, reduce resource consumption, restore biodiversity and traditional ways of life, and undermine extractive economies, including capitalism, that erode the ecological basis of our collective well-being. This requires a re-localization and democratization of primary production and consumption by building up local food systems, local clean energy, and small-scale production that are sustainable economically and ecologically. This also means producing to live well without living better at the expense of others.
A Just Transition retains Culture and Tradition
Capitalism has forced many communities to sacrifice culture and tradition for economic survival. It has also defaced and destroyed land held as sacred. Just Transition must create inclusionary spaces for all traditions and cultures, recognizing them as integral to a healthy and vibrant economy. It should also make reparations for land that has been stolen and/or destroyed by capitalism, colonialism, patriarchy, genocide and slavery.
A Just Transition embodies Local, Regional, National and International Solidarity
A Just Transition must be liberatory and transformative. The impacts of the extractive economy knows no borders. We recognize the interconnectedness of our communities as well as our issues. Therefore, our solutions call for local, regional, national and global solidarity that confronts imperialism and militarism.
A Just Transition builds What We Need Now
We must build the world we need now. This may begin at a local small scale, and must expand to begin to displace extractive practices. We must build and flex the muscles needed to meet our communities’ needs.
Read more about the Climate Justice Alliance‘s work on Just Transition, including the framework of how to move from an extractive economy to a regenerative economy. Also read two other climate justice organizations’ own Just Transition Principles.