“Just Transition” Climate Change considerations within CARICOM

The concept of a just transition originated with the United States labour movement of the Nineteen-Seventies and broadened as labour organisations forged alliances with environmental justice groups starting in the 1990s. 

Initially, the concept emerged in response to increased regulation of industries deemed heavy polluters. The literal meaning of the words are central to a full appreciation of the concept.  

A “transition” refers to the process/period of changing from one state/condition to another. It is the definition of “just” that requires clarification. 

“Just”, in this context, is the adjective referring to “based on or behaving according to what is morally right and fair (Righteous)” or “being what is merited (Deserved)” or “Legally correct (Lawful).”  The word “just” is not intended to be used as the adverb meaning “only” or “simply.”

The Caribbean Community is no stranger to transitions, especially those that have been decidedly unjust. These SIDS that include the mainland territories of Belize, Guyana and Suriname have had to make political transitions from colonialism to independence, and economic transitions from plantations to private farms and Industrialisation by Invitation. The more recent transition is environmentally driven around issues of climate change.  The concept of a just transition with respect to climate change implies that all those citizens disadvantaged by adaptation and mitigation actions will be buffered through socio-economic programmes that protect livelihoods.   

Just transition has been described as fostering healthy renewable economies and communities whilst moving away from fossil fuel dependence and extractive industries.