Research Network summary
Emerging from a successful workshop in Rome in November 2022, this network aims to develop scholarship and policy on just transitions in response to industrial,
environmental and technological change. The network proposes to go beyond current framings and develop concepts of just transition which combine twin transitions in
‘green’/environmental and digital/technological terms and which develop a deeper analysis of what ‘justice’ means for cities and regions in transition, including
transformations in response to climate change, economic restructuring in response to deindustrialisation, as well as impacts from Industry 4.0 technologies. Through a
series of international workshops, this network proposes to disseminate new findings on diverse notions of justice for policy, including concepts of procedural justice, in
which structural change is perceived as ‘fair’; distributional justice, in which stakeholders are compensated for transitional costs, and; restorative justice in which remedial
policies manage change without lowering economic welfare for the most vulnerable.
Aims and Ambitions of the Research Network
The network aims to generate new and original research findings on the concept of just transitions as a mode of policy delivery in response to social, environmental and economic change in cities and regions. It aims to generate findings which renovate, update and finetune this concept in order to influence the development of regional policies which are more closely attuned to the demands of social and environmental justice. The network proposes to achieve these aims with a series of events based around the following themes:
The proposed network aims to generate new and original research findings on the concept of just transitions as a mode of policy delivery in response to social, environmental and economic change in cities and regions. It aims to generate findings which renovate, update and finetune this concept in order to influence the development of regional policies which are more closely attuned to the demands of social and environmental justice. The network proposes to achieve these aims with a series of events based around the following themes:
- Implications for regional industrial and innovation policies of the European Union’s Just Transition Mechanism, including policies which incorporate the perspectives of governments, regional institutions and trade unions
- Lessons from ‘best practice’ in plant closure management in response to industrial transformation, including the disappearance of automotive manufacturing and the closure of coal-fired power generation in Australia
- Prospects for UK manufacturing in
- the transition to clean energy and electric vehicle (EV) manufacturing
- the transformation of trade and investment policies with Europe post-Brexit
- relation to the proximity of battery manufacturing ‘Gigafactories’ in Europe and elsewhere
- New understandings about the relationship between Industry 4.0 and clean energy technologies in Europe
- Relations between training, skills development and just transitions, including lessons from:
- manufacturing in the Emilia-Romagna region, Italy
- the diversification of regional cities following the closure of automotive manufacturing in Australia
- Prospects for North American automotive manufacturing and local communities:
- since the restructuring of GM, Ford and Fiat-Chrysler a decade ago
- in light of:
- ongoing production shifts to the southern states of the United States and to Mexico and Central America
- the transition to EV and battery manufacturing in California and beyond
The proposed network aims to address the following research questions:
- What does ‘justice’ mean in the context of ‘just transitions’, including the political economy question: justice for whom?
- What are the different notions and concepts of justice? To what extent are these notions complementary or conflicting? Which, if any, of these parallel concepts predominate in scholarship, policy and practice? Are different concepts predominant in different countries and/or different sub-national regions?
- To what extent are notions of environmental, climate and social justice mutually compatible? To what extent are they in conflict or competition in policy terms?
The aims and objectives of the network are timely, especially in the context of industrial transformation globally, with highly uncertain implications for employment opportunities, job quality, skills development, and inclusionary policies for local communities. Relevant changes include the gradual and legislated drawdown of petrol and diesel motor vehicles and internal combustion engine production, the associated consolidation of inter-firm relations within global and regional value chains, the gradual transition away from coal and gas-fired energy production, and the advent of more advanced Industry 4.0 technologies, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and driverless vehicle technologies with the potential to revolutionise transportation and logistical networks. Many of these changes are expected to take place across Europe, the Americas and elsewhere over the course of the 2020s and 2030s, adding impetus to the research aims of the proposed network.
Research findings are likely to be highly relevant to policymakers in national, regional and municipal governments in Europe, North America and Australasia, as well as business organisations, employer representatives, global business networks looking to adopt best practices, and civic organisations from community organisations to trade unions and small business representative organisations. Their relevance will be enhanced by a multi-disciplinary perspective which incorporates diverse approaches, theoretical frameworks and methodologies in relation to technology transitions, regional path renewals, sustainability, climate justice and agency.