The fundamental principle of a Just Transition is to leave no people, communities, economic sectors or regions behind as we transition to a low carbon future. Such a transition means changing how we travel, communicate, work, what we eat, wear and even the entertainment we consume. A Just Transition requires that we fairly share both the benefits and challenges of our new way of living. In order to transform how our society and economy operate, we must invest in effective and integrated social protection systems, education, training and lifelong learning, childcare, out of school care, health care, long term care and other quality services. Social investment must be a top priority if those people, communities, economic sectors and regions who are most affected are to be supported as we make the difficult transition to a carbon neutral economy.
Ireland and the wider world are moving steadily towards the 2030 deadline for the delivery of the Climate Strategy and the Sustainable Development Goals. While seven years remain before reaching that deadline, there seems little awareness among many, including some policy-makers, that substantial changes will have to made at every level – individual, local, national and global – if the agreed targets are to be met. Even where this necessary awareness is apparent, there is no evidence that sufficient measures are being put in place to meet these goals. Ensuring that these changes are made, and that the impact of change is shared fairly by all, will require huge adjustments in all our lives. It is essential that a just transition process is put in place to enable people to reach this new way of living.
A transformation of how we live is coming one way or the other; climate change is already taking its toll on both our natural environment and human society. The question will be whether public policy is used to shape that future in a way that is humane, ecologically sound and just. We must generate momentum to accelerate a just transition towards a low-carbon economy, especially for rural communities. Social Justice Ireland welcomed the commitment to a Just Transition in the Programme for Government and the Climate Action Plan and we welcome the recent establishment of the Infrastructure, Climate and Nature Fund. A successful move to a sustainable future for all requires a process that involves all stakeholders. Social dialogue is an effective mechanism for fostering trust and adopting a problem-solving approach to transition.
Transition is about harnessing the benefits to transform both our society and our economy. A Just Transition requires a social protection system – along with appropriate services and infrastructure – that prevents poverty and social exclusion for those who lose employment or income due to the effects or mitigation of climate change, or who face additional cost-of-living pressures such as soaring energy prices. Addressing such pressures and taking steps to eliminate poverty should be a key pillar of any Just Transition platform. In particular, Rural areas are among those that will be most impacted by the transition to a carbon-neutral society. They will also be impacted by the potential changes of technology and automation on employment and the future of work. An ongoing dialogue on how to support transition and adaptation and a place-based approach is essential to ensure that vulnerable rural communities are protected, supported to meet future challenges, and not disproportionately impacted. A sustainable society requires balanced regional and rural development.