In order to achieve future goals of carbon net zero, and to halt and reverse biodiversity loss, significant changes and transitions will need to be applied to the UK, and globally. Such transitions will present opportunities and costs, and they will have a profound social impact. This will create tensions and conflicts between sustainability targets and the fair and just treatment of people.

Issues of environmental justice have been recognised, such as marginalised groups being unlikely to gain employment in new technical ‘green jobs’, or being able to afford to adopt low carbon technologies, or increased exposure of deprived communities to pollutants or flood risk. There are also international scales of injustice between more and less economically developed countries that have been key issues in recent climate change and biodiversity COPs. In response, a number of groups have written about the concept of the “just transition”, which emphasises the need to address environmental justice issues simultaneously alongside transitioning to a sustainable future.

This POSTnote will summarise and define environmental justice with respect to different sustainability transitions and consider how and why these issues should be addressed. It will also summarise the evidence base and frameworks for identifying where justice issues arise, and how to respond to them. It will explain why these justice issues are important and what their implications for policymakers are.

Work on this briefing will commence in May 2023

Photo by Noah Buscher on Unsplash

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