just transition cop28


  • The just transition can have different meanings based on the socio-economic and political conditions of each country.
  • In the draft text of the work program for the just transition, there is no mention of human rights, women’s rights, youth rights and indigenous people’s rights.
  • The just transition concerns mitigation strategies, but also the adaptation and resilience of the groups most vulnerable to climate change.

The interpretation of the concept of just transition is different from person to person, based on their place of origin or the community they belong to. The just transition must achieve the objectives of the Paris Agreement without leaving anyone behind, especially the most vulnerable countries and the most fragile groups, such as women, young people and indigenous peoples, so that everyone can benefit from it.

From the first annual ministerial round table on the topic, which took place at COP28 in Dubai on Sunday December 3rd, the need for a new definition of just transition that is universal and acceptable to all emerged.

Given a certain number of trajectories that can be followed towards a net zero emissions economy, the just transition requires identifying the route that allows achieving sustainable development in all countries.

The transition is not just about mitigation, on which it is often focused, but also about adaptation and resilience to the impacts of climate change. These are the first example of climate injustice, since the impacts are clearly visible in developing countries which, however, are the ones that have contributed the least to the ongoing climate crisis.

In discussions about the just transition, the topic of financing from developed countries to developing countries to make this transition effective often emerges, but more than once developing countries have highlighted the difficulty in having access to these finances and the inequality in their distribution between countries.

In these first days of COP28, negotiations began on the work program for the just transition, point 9 on the agenda of the subsidiary body for implementation (SBI) and point 8 on the agenda of the subsidiary body for scientific and technological advice (SBSTA).

The work program was established by Decision 1 of the CMA4 last year. In particular, it should identify a scenario that allows the objectives of the Paris Agreement to be respected (i.e. limiting the temperature increase to +1.5°C compared to the pre-industrial period) taking into account the principle of equity and that of common but differentiated responsibilities among countries. SBI and SBSTA had been asked to prepare a draft text for the discussion at COP28.

The work program is an opportunity to make the just transition part of the NDCs by 2025, i.e. the climate objectives that the different nations will set themselves. At the moment, according to an analysis of UNFCCC, only 57% of countries have made commitments related to the just transition in the NDCs, out of a total of 68 countries corresponding to 76% of global emissions.

The work on the draft text must end on Tuesday December 5th 2023, and five informal meetings are planned. The first was held on Friday December 1st. The second was held on Saturday December 2nd in the morning, but it was almost immediately suspended. These were mentioned among the reasons:

  1. Due to the long queue to access the venue, the negotiators of the G77-China group did not have time to read and discuss the draft and the comments received.
  2. The room, of limited dimensions, was not able to accommodate all the negotiators of the Parties.

For this reason the meeting has been moved to Sunday December 3rd at 11 am (Dubai time). Once again, controversy arose among negotiators and observers regarding the size of the chosen room, and the impossibility of guaranteeing the participation of everyone in the meeting. As it is happening in many informal sessions at this COP28, some countries had no delegates to represent them inside the rooms, and all observers remained outside. Given the importance of the topic for all countries, especially developing ones, and for civil society, in particular among representatives of the most vulnerable groups, it is important that all stakeholders are represented at the sessions on just transition. At the suggestion of the constituencies, the co-facilitators therefore decided to further postpone the meeting to midday and move it to the plenary room, which quickly filled up completely.

The negotiating text discussed in the next few days will have to define the tasks of the work program. The points are:

  • Topics: path to follow towards the objectives of the Paris Agreement, job creation, poverty eradication, sustainable development, stakeholder involvement,…
  • Work timeline: ending in 2026, 2027 or beyond.
  • WP structure: with a contact group managed by SBI and SBSTA or a dialogue carried out by two co-chairs, one from a developing country and one from a developed country.
  • Connections with other lines of work of the convention and the Paris agreement: such as the Sharm el-Sheikh mitigation ambition and implementation work programme, the agenda items of SBI and SBSTA, the ministerial round tables on just transition. 
  • Preparation of reports to outline the results of the dialogue.

The Parties immediately pointed out the difficulty of guaranteeing results for December 5th: the topic is a priority for the agreement and for the countries, and can guide future decisions at a national level. It therefore requires an in-depth discussion, but on the other hand it is urgent and necessary to have results in a short time.

The G77-China group stressed that it did not feel represented by the text, an aspect also highlighted by the least developed countries, African countries and small island states.

One of the most relevant themes was the total absence of mention of human rights in the text, in particular the rights of women, young people, indigenous people and the most vulnerable groups. This aspect was raised by many delegates – Mexico, New Zealand, Canada, Norway, Australia, Turkey, Papua New Guinea, European Union, Colombia -, and reiterated by the constituencies of observers: WGC, Youngo, Tungo, Engo, indigenous peoples.

Other aspects not mentioned in the text that the Parties advanced were climate finance, capacity building and technology transfer to developing countries, as well as international cooperation.

The G77-China group continues to reiterate the need to include in the text, in order for it to be recognised, the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, which must be the basis for climate finance.

Article by Francesca Casale, Italian Climate Network delegate at COP28

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