Just Transitions within Sectors and Industries Globally

Ref: COVJT210014

Award Value: £94,318.00

Research Team: Dr Mandy Sadan, University of Warwick; Professor Dan Smyer Yu; The University of Cologne

Title: "Rare Earths in the Just Transition: Connecting Global Inequalities in REE Commodity Chains"

Abstract: Rare Earth Elements (REE) have entered discussions about the just transition only within the last decade and they remain relatively unknown within the public discourse about pro-carbon-zero technologies. REE will be vital in delivering a carbon-zero future and their importance is set to increase dramatically in the short and medium-term, given the immediate need for them and the lag in implementing recycling or alternatives for rapid technological transition. However, their sites of extraction are often located in highly marginalised and conflict-prone regions. This project aims to develop a more integrated approach to REE by considering what the just transition looks like at different points along the commodity chain. It also hopes to develop resources for schools to ensure that young people who will have increasing responsibility for finding solutions to these problems are familiarised with the implications of relying on green technologies that use REE.


Ref: COVJT210029

Award Value: £80,000.00

Research Team: Professor James Cockayne, University of Nottingham; Dr Oana Burcu, University of Nottingham; Mr Siddarth Kara, University of Nottingham; Ms Kristina Michaelides, University of Nottingham; Dr Edgar Rodríguez-Huerta, University of Nottingham

Title: "Solar Energy, Modern Slavery and the Just Transition"

Abstract: Solar energy is crucial to decarbonization. But there's growing evidence solar energy value-chains are gravely tainted by modern slavery. 70% of global cobalt supply, crucial to solar and electric vehicle (EV) batteries, comes from DRC, where it's often mined by forced and 40% of solar panels come from Xinjiang, where forced labour is ubiquitous. With solar energy demand projected to grow by 450% by 2030, increased enslavement risks becoming the unintended price of decarbonization. This complicates the ‘justice’ of this transition. New anti-slavery legislative and reporting measures in the UK, US and EU are simultaneously beginning to disrupt solar energy value-chains, potentially slowing decarbonization. Yet these risks, and those vulnerable to them, are largely absent from Just Transition planning by legislators, industry and investors. This project will address that gap by developing evidence-based options for equitable management of modern slavery risks across solar energy value-chains while catalyzing uptake through stakeholder dialogue.


Ref: COVJT210052

Award Value: £99,304.00

Research Team: Dr Katharina Rietig, Newcastle University; Dr Graham Long, Newcastle University

Title: "The 'net' in net-zero greenhouse gas emissions: achieving just transitions in the forestry sector through climate policy integration and learning"

Abstract: How can just transitions to societies with net-zero carbon/GHG emissions be successful in the forestry sector? Protecting forests, halting deforestation and supporting reforestation globally by increasing natural carbon sinks such as forests will be central in delivering on the ‘net’ aspect of countries’ ambition to achieve ‘net-zero’ carbon/GHG emissions by 2040-2060. This aim however competes with agricultural business, logging and bio- energy related interests along global value chains as main drivers of deforestation. Drawing on qualitative and quantitative data from a global survey of United Nations Sustainable Development Goals/SDGs Partnerships on forestry and forestry-related climate policies, this project will evaluate in co-production with central stakeholders how just transitions in the forestry and related agriculture/bio-energy sectors can be achieved. It will focus on drawing lessons and learning from successful SDG partnerships to achieve a successful integration of climate action through halting deforestation and just transitions for the actors whose livelihoods are adversely affected.


Ref: COVJT210011

Award Value: £62,545.00

Research Team: Dr Lisa Schulte, Middlesex University; Dr Sian Stephens, Middlesex University; Dr Charles Umney, University of Leeds

Title: "Wind energy and the Just Transition: Political and socio-economic pinch points in wind turbine manufacturing and windfarm communities in Europe and South Africa"

Abstract: Our international team will develop five comparative case studies on wind turbine manufacturing and windfarm deployment in Denmark, Germany, England, Scotland and South Africa. Our analysis will consider four pinch points in the pursuit of a just transition to low carbon energy: (1) community engagement and resistance, (2) vocational skill formation, (3) job quality and (4) social dialogue. Using data collected from eighty-five interviews conducted between 2012 and 2018 and new data from twenty-nine interviews and thirteen focus groups we will explore the following: How is just transition defined and implemented? What are the political and socio-economic pinch points at manufacturing sites and in windfarm communities? How are the intensifying demands on work and the environment, resulting from political agendas requiring low cost and large scale deployment of wind turbines, being dealt with? How can the expansion of this new industry be managed equitably?


Ref: COVJT210012

Award Value: £80,512.00

Research Team: Dr Laurie Parsons, Royal Holloway, University of London; Mr Wim Conklin, Solidarity Center, Cambodia; Dr Sabina Lawreniuk, University of Nottingham; Dr Serey Sok, Royal University of Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Title: "Just-in-Time Transition? Industrial Sustainability, Decent Work and the Production of Climatic Precarity in the Cambodian Garment Industry"

Abstract: The global apparel industry is the world’s second most polluting. As consumer anxieties about climate crisis grow, major brands are pledging to speed transition to a low-carbon economy by reducing emissions and environmental degradation, making bold commitments to improve sustainability. Nevertheless, these programs are directed primarily to mitigation of carbon emissions and environmental pollutants. By contrast, climate adaptation has been largely ignored in corporate strategy. Decarbonisation programs in the garment sector therefore engage little with how structural changes to the industry impact worker livelihoods and shape their exposure to climate change. More broadly, this reflects a lack of research and policy on the crucial question of how climate change impacts industrial workers. Our project will build on recently completed projects to highlight how industrial processes and practices shape garment workers’ vulnerability to climate change in Cambodia: a key manufacturer of UK garments and among the world’s most climate vulnerable countries.


Ref: COVJT210036

Award Value: £97,071.00

Research Team: Dr Karen Bell, University of West England, Bristol; Dr Keith Mc Loughlin, University of Bristol; Professor Vivian Price, California State University; Dr Lara Skinner, Cornell University

Title: "Decarbonising and Diversifying Defence: A Workers’ Enquiry"

Abstract: Just Transition highlights the urgent need to transform our societies so as to avert irreversible environmental harm while also securing workers' rights and livelihoods. This project will focus on the transition of the defence sector as one of the most environmentally damaging spheres of the global economy. Many governments and defence companies now express a willingness to decarbonise and/or diversify this sector. Some also recognise that the views of the workers are important in this process so as to enable a rapid and effective transition. However, it appears that dialogue with defence sector workers has often been opaque, minimal or absent. We will, therefore, undertake a workers’ enquiry to aid understanding of the needs, aspirations, concerns and ideas of the defence workforce for a Just Transition in this sector. The United Kingdom (UK) and the United States (US) will be the geographical focus as the two largest defence exporters globally.


Ref: COVJT210078

Award Value: £99,930.00

Research Team: Dr Alex Shankland, Institute of Development Studies; Dr Salvador Forquilha, Institute for Social and Economic Studies; Miss Victoria Ihuoma Ohaeri, Spaces for Change, Nigeria; Mr Amos Wemanya, Power Shift Africa

Title: "Making Space for Dialogue on Just Transitions in Africa’s Oil and Gas Producing Regions"

Abstract: The oil and gas sector offers some of the greatest challenges and opportunities for global efforts to secure a just transition. Africa is a key oil and gas producing region, but it is also the part of the world that is most vulnerable to climate change, despite having the smallest historically-accumulated carbon footprint. As the world’s poorest region, Sub-Saharan Africa has the greatest need for revenue to meet the frustrated aspirations of its citizens, but oil and gas extraction currently fuels corruption and conflict rather than powering development. Building on previous research on civic space and the politics of energy policy in Africa and on strong partnerships with national and local organisations in Kenya, Nigeria and Mozambique, we will identify challenges, enabling conditions and entry points for ensuring inclusive deliberation on what a just transition would look like for the citizens of oil and gas producing regions in Sub-Saharan Africa.


Ref: COVJT210062

Award Value: £79,463.00

Research Team: Dr Emilka Skrzypek, University of St Andrews; Dr Nicholas Bainton, University of Queensland; Dr John Burton, University of Queensland

Title: "Just transition: a new framework for responsible extraction of energy transition metals for the renewable energy sector"

Abstract: This project uses social science and humanities research to identify how the concept of a just transition could provide a new framework for the responsible extraction of energy transition metals used by the renewable energy sector. The project will map and examine the procedural, distributive and restorative justice dimensions tied to the global demand for energy transition metals. We will focus on extraction in the Pacific Islands region, which is at the forefront of climate change impacts and has significant deposits of energy transition metals. By focussing on a specific region, the project will demonstrate how the justice dimensions of global energy transitions can be understood at the local and regional scale to provide knowledge to support just transition pathways across the supply chain for energy transition metals. The project innovates by developing a methodology entailing spatial mapping and qualitative research that is replicable across other regions.


Ref: COVJT210085

Award Value: £81,541.00

Research Team: Professor Alex De Ruyter, Birmingham City University; Dr Sally Weller, University of South Australia

Title: "Enabling a just transition in automotive: evidence from the West Midlands and South Australia"

Abstract: Employment in the automotive sector is typically spatially concentrated and hence the impact of the transition to low-carbon technologies will have profound subnational effects. Although there is a rich literature around the spatial impact of automotive plant closures, the novelty of this project lies in its focus on transformation and diversification throughout the supply chain. As such, it posits a comparative international piece of research investigating the potential lessons for supplier firms arising from the West Midlands and South Australia. This project will employ mixed methods and it is envisaged that this will result in the creation of a unique dataset. The core of the project will entail a series of interviews with stakeholders (management, workforce and policymakers) throughout the supply chain, coupled with a workforce survey. This project will break new ground through its explicit examination of the potentials of supplier firms to reorient toward the ‘green’ automotive production economy.

Sign up to our email newsletters