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.
RSA Winter Conference Special Session – Just Transition of Cities and Regions
London, 9th-10th November 2023
Lisa De Propris, University of Birmingham, UK
Sally Weller, University of South Australia, Australia
The populations of cities and regions have uneven capacities to respond to the accelerating pace of environmental, industrial and technological change. As developmental pathways diverge, public policy in many advanced economy contexts has embraced the notion of delivering a ‘Just Transition’ to affected workers and communities as an essential element of the process of forging a new path of ‘old’ industrial regions (Newell and Mulvaney, 2013; Dawley et al. 2015). A Just Transition in its original conception referred to distributional equity and compensating the losers of change in ways that exceed notions of resilience. However, as ‘Just Transition’ enters the mainstream discourse, its meaning and content are subject to contestation (Bouzarovski, 2022), and its meaning appears to be shifting from the material issues associated with equity of outcomes to the construction of narratives to support the social legitimization of change. This process risks casting affected workforces and communities as an institutional impediment to socio-technical change (Heffron and McCauley, 2022).
This session seeks papers that interrogate the notion of just transition and its application in regional contexts. We invite papers that:
- develop concepts of just transition and explore the different forms of justice it entails (Bainton et al, XXXX).
- interrogate the shifting discursive construction of the idea of just transition as a mobile and ‘vehicular’ concept with hybrid forms across domains like energy and food systemss (While and Easdon, 2022)
- identify the magnitude of the practical interventions and the optimal institutional arrangements that would be required to deliver a just transition to affected workers and communities (Engelen et al. 2017);
- explore the political dimension of spatial justice and the tensions between different scalar lenses, from the local to the planetary.
- Explicate the role of particular types of agents, especially trade unions, in defining and securing just transitions (Stevis and Felli, 2015)
- incorporate consideration of the social and employment impacts of both environmental and energy transitions in response to climate change and the digital and technological transformations that promise to reshape the nature of work.
- Examine the tensions and commonalities of just transition in relation to established concepts like regional resilience.
Looking Back, Looking Ahead: Marking 10 Years Since the End of Australian Car Manufacturing was Declared
A one-day research symposium
Adelaide, Thurs 15 February 2024
This one-day research symposium has been organised to mark 10 years since Australia’s last carmakers announced plans to close domestic manufacturing operations. By February 2014, all remaining carmakers had announced plans to end the domestic manufacture and assembly of passenger cars over the following 3-4 years. By October 2017, Australia’s car manufacturing industry had shut down completely.
The 10th anniversary of these announcements represents a timely moment to reflect on the significance of these decisions, to take stock of public and academic debates about the demise of domestic car manufacturing, and to continue critical discussion about the future of manufacturing in Australia, and the role of manufacturing in prosperous societies. The symposium has been organised to bring together academic researchers, industry partners and practitioners to discuss issues related to the decline of Australia’s car manufacturing industry, including findings from the major Australian Research Council (ARC)-funded project, Future Work Future Communities (FWFC), which aims to shed light on the changes in Australian workplaces and communities which have been shaped by new business models, economic restructuring and disruptive technologies.
The symposium is proudly hosted by the FWFC project led by the University of South Australia and its project partners (see FWFC website for details). It is co-funded by the Regional Studies Association (RSA) Research Network on ‘Putting the “Just” into Just Transitions’, a three-year project which aims to support symposia internationally which develops scholarship and policy on just transitions in response to industrial, environmental and technological change, including plant closures, job losses and labour market transformations.
We welcome abstracts from academic researchers, Higher Degree by Research (HDR) students, and practitioners in industry, policymaking, or community organisations. Abstracts will be considered on topics related, but not necessarily limited to the following:
• the past, present and/or future of manufacturing;
• the question (or relevance) of just transitions for workers, households and communities;
• labour market outcomes for workers made redundant due to major closures and/or restructuring;
• skill and occupational outcomes;
• implications or outcomes for supply chain businesses, potentially including the design and delivery of policies that support or encourage diversification;
• the gendered dynamics of industrial or labour market change;
• the design and delivery of labour market assistance;
• local and/or regional dimensions and/or implications of restructuring and closures;
• work and life in closure-affected communities;
• impacts on minority groups or communities;
• lessons for policymakers in Australia and elsewhere.
Funding is available to support the participation of Early-Career Researchers (ECRs), HDR students, low-income or unwaged researchers, or researchers from outside the academy, e.g., from industry, policymaking, or community organisations, including potential to subsidise travel and accommodation for participants travelling from outside Adelaide/South Australia. Participants will
need to deliver a brief presentation of their work to other participants at the workshop.
Successful applicants will generally be expected to participate at the symposium in-person. While full written papers are not mandatory, we intend to utilise the symposium to develop papers for publication in a special issue of a journal in the broad field of regional studies or in a cognisant outlet within the social, political, or economic sciences. Preference will be given to applicants who indicate their interest and capacity to participate in this process of publication.
Applications should be emailed to Josefina.Atienza@unisa.edu.au by Mon 30 October, 2023.
Applications should include: the title of the paper; an abstract (maximum 250 words); the name and institution/organisation of the presenter(s), and; a brief biographical statement (maximum 50 words) for each presenter/author. Applicants may wish to briefly address any additional issues of relevance in the body of the email, e.g., request/eligibility for funding, relevance of the proposed paper to symposium themes, interest/capacity in publishing a full written paper for a journal special issue, etc.
All applicants will be notified of outcomes by mid-November 2023. All enquiries should be directed via the email listed above.
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.