The Contested Boundaries of Just Transitions

From Labour Law and Ecology (2022) (C. Chacartegui, ed)

18 Pages Posted: 10 Aug 2022

See all articles by David J. Doorey

David J. Doorey

York University

Ann Eisenberg

University of South Carolina - School of Law

Date Written: August 4, 2022


Greenhouse gas emissions have already changed our climate. But policies geared toward reducing emissions also stand to yield a variety of unintended consequences. One such potential unintended consequence is that if high-emitting industries are phased out rapidly and without forethought, the workers and communities who depend upon those industries will bear severe losses. Calls for a “just transition” to the low-carbon future have proliferated. But the meaning of this concept remains muddied, potentially undermining its potency as a tool for the climate era.

This chapter reviews the origins of the just transition concept in the late twentieth century labour movement, characterizes other social movements’ co-optation of the concept over the subsequent decades, and offers a deeper examination of the (many) theories of justice that animate the (contested) just transition concept. We argue that the expansion of the just transition concept beyond its origins in the labour movement represents a real loss, as no other justice concept so concisely and illustratively captures worker and community economic dependence and the suite of concrete policy options to address the rug being pulled out from under people’s livelihoods. Ultimately, though, the concept’s broad appeal and its evolution toward inclusivity offer reason for optimism about its utility in the fight against climate change.

Keywords: Just Transition; Justice; Law; Labour; Environmental Justice; Energy Justice; Distributive Justice; Procedural Justice; Restorative Justice, Planetary Justice

JEL Classification: K100, K32, K31, O13, O25, Q00, Q01, Q28, Q4, Q54, Q56, Q58,

Suggested Citation

Doorey, David J. and Eisenberg, Ann, The Contested Boundaries of Just Transitions (August 4, 2022). From Labour Law and Ecology (2022) (C. Chacartegui, ed), Available at SSRN: or

David J. Doorey (Contact Author)

York University ( email )

4700 Keele Street
Toronto, Ontario M3J 1P3


Ann Eisenberg

University of South Carolina - School of Law ( email )

1525 Gervais St.
Columbia, SC 29208
United States

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