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Transparency for Just Transitions

22 March 2024

Originally posted in Terra Green, VOLUME 16 ISSUE 11 February 2024

In this stimulating article, Dr Wuester, communicates about the relevance of transparency in just transition in the sphere of climate and development policies. As per him—transparency and data are the determining factors in ensuring a transition towards a low-carbon, climate-resilient economy. Transparency is crucial for engaging stakeholders, and bringing them along through the transition.


The themes of just transition and climate justice are central to achieving global climate objectives. As such, it was a good sign that just transitions took centre stage at COP28 in Dubai, not only in sessions specifically on the Just Transition Work Programme, but as a red thread throughout most discussions held at the conference. The concept of just transition and the goals a just transition should pursue— leaving no one behind, reducing inequalities, equitably distributing benefits and burdens—have become increasingly well-defined and widely understood in recent years.

How can just transition goals, such as enhanced inclusion and reduction of inequalities, be embodied in the planning and implementation of climate and development policies themselves? Countries around the world are currently trying to answer these questions, many supported by the guidance and tools developed by the Initiative for Climate Action Transparency (ICAT). The ICAT has drafted a still to be published methodological framework for assessing just transition impacts and is working with the governments of Nigeria and South Africa to implement it in their respective countries. At a COP28 side event, representatives of the governments of the two countries, along with several other stakeholders, discussed what they have learned thus far from their efforts to develop monitoring, evaluation, and learning frameworks for the just transition. These three key learnings are briefed here:

Just transitions cannot succeed without transparency

Transparency and stakeholder inclusion in just transition processes are crucial to ensure accountability, legitimacy, and credibility of climate actions. These in turn build the broad public support and ownership that are necessary to sustain deep and sustainable transformations to low-carbon economies. Transparency and stakeholder engagement must be pursued continuously from the very f irst planning stages to monitoring and evaluation.

In South Africa, planning and measuring the implementation of the just transition is the responsibility of the Presidential Climate Commission (PCC). The PCC reports directly to the President and comprises government ministers, civil society groups, labour, academia, traditional leadership, and business. “It is by default forming the social partnership to accelerate the just transition and bringing these groups together to forge consensus around the difficult trade-offs that the transition will bring,” Katie Ross, Monitoring and Evaluation Lead at the PCC highlighted at the COP28 side event. The PCC seeks to embody the principle of procedural justice also by pursuing transparency: all commission meetings are broadcasted live. In Nigeria, the government identified and engaged relevant stakeholders during the first phase of the development of its just transition monitoring framework. In a country, as diverse as Nigeria, one of the key approaches to transparency is inclusivity because without transparency, stakeholders cannot be brought along in the process. It is expected that this scoping and engagement will have a big impact on implementation of the strategy; stakeholders now feel part of the development of this document, which increases its legitimacy. During the COP28 session, Nigeria’s Peter Tarfa, encouraged other countries undertaking similar journeys to “think very deeply when they are determining their own criteria and how they map their own stakeholders. This is very important, because once there is no transparency, you will not be able to carry the stakeholders along.” The Nigerian Government also encouraged extensive media coverage of the process so that the general public was kept informed of what their government was doing to develop a framework for a just transition.

Using indicators to demonstrate impact helps build acceptance of policies from stakeholders that could be negatively impacted by the changes

The labour force is one of the groups that could be most impacted by the transformations needed to address climate change, and engaging them from the beginning will improve understanding and buy-in. In Nigeria, this was particularly evident, because the Nigerian labour force—represented by Nigeria’s Labour Congress—felt a large sense of involvement in the project, when they were included in stakeholder consultations. The views of the Labour Congress of Nigeria during the COP28 session were positive. Eche Asuzu, Climate Change Coordinator of the Labour Congress explained the outcomes and implications of worker engagement: “Workers in Nigeria felt a huge sense of involvement in the project. Commitment to transparency has been very high and doors have been opened.” However, Eche Asuzu stressed the need for planning to be followed by action, with the continued involvement of workers. The doors must be kept open and legislation should be changed to address the health, economic, and livelihood effects of climate change that workers are experiencing. “We want to see the laws begin to speak that language, [so that] workers can look at it and say: yes, we are fully represented,” he stated.

Countries can use existing indicators and monitoring processes

Most of the indicators required to track just transition progress are already in use. What’s important is to build a bridge between the indicators of an environmentally driven process and those related to labour and human rights. The issue in many countries is that this data is usually held in different places. But once it is found and the connections are made, gaps can be identified where new indicators are needed. This is an important insight from experience in Scotland, shared by Prof. Nick Robbins, Commissioner on the Just Transition Commission in Scotland. To address climate change, we will need transformational change. For all countries, transformational change means economic changes are needed, and some of these will impact development positively, and some will do so negatively. To make transformational change feasible, we must address the negative aspects, and amplify the positive ones. Transparency is essential in this process: it is a building block to ensure transformational change while leaving nobody behind. It helps to build confidence by those that are most affected by the policies and actions put in place to bring about that transformational change.

Dr Henning Wuester, Director, Initiative for Climate Action Transparency