The concept of a ‘just transition’ to a low‐carbon economy is firmly embedded in mainstream global discourses about mitigating climate change. Drawing on Karl Polanyi's political economy elaborated in The Great Transformation, we interrogate the idea of a just transition and place it within its historical context. We address a major contradiction at the core of global energy transition debates: the rapid shift to low‐carbon energy‐systems will require increased extraction of minerals and metals. In doing so, we argue that extractive industries are energy and carbon‐intensive, and will enlarge and intensify social and ecological injustice. Our findings reveal the importance of understanding how the idea of a just transition is used, and by who, and the type of justice that underpins this concept. We demonstrate the need to ground just transition policies and programmes in a notion of justice as fairness.

Language: English

Publisher: Wiley

Region: Global

Type: Article


Bainton, N, Kemp, D, Lèbre, E, Owen, JR, Marston, G. The energy-extractives nexus and the just transition. Sustainable Development. 2021; 29: 624– 634.

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The energy‐extractives nexus and the just transition

The energy‐extractives nexus and the just transition