The climate imperative to reduce production and consumption of fossil fuels is well recognised. But what is less well understood and supported is the need to ensure that the world’s poorest citizens, many of whom live in resource rich countries, are not left behind. A just transition—one that addresses the development, energy and economic needs of this population in a fair and inclusive manner—is essential both to the well-being of people and to the future of the planet.

Because of the trade-offs required, and the diversity of objectives, views and pathways involved, there is growing recognition that achieving just transitions requires widespread, inclusive and democratic deliberation. Yet traditional models of participatory decision making and transition options often draw on experiences in wealthy liberal democracies. They rest on key assumptions that do not apply elsewhere: the existence of a strong and well-resourced state able to provide retraining and compensation, an engaged and responsive private sector, a well organised labour movement, and spaces where informed and capacitated civil society can meaningfully engage without fear of violence. Few resource-rich African countries meet such requirements. Yet the fundamental shift in their economic and development models implied by energy transitions will not be possible without an active and informed debate between citizens and policymakers: a re-imagining of just transition through open and inclusive dialogue.


This commentary was first published on the Natural Resource Governance Institute website and you can access the full version here.


Peter Newell

Peter Newell is Research Director of the Rapid Transition Alliance. He is Professor of International Relations at the University of Sussex. His research focuses on the political economy of low carbon energy transitions and global climate change politics. He is currently an ISRF Political Economy Research Fellow and is on the Board of Directors of Greenpeace UK and Carbon Market Watch in Brussels. His books include Climate for Change, Governing Climate Change, Climate Capitalism and The Politics of Green Transformations.

Suneeta Kaimal

Suneeta is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Natural Resource Governance Institute.