Title                          Socially Just and Politically Robust Decarbonisation: A Knowledge Base and Toolkit for Policymakers

Lead PI                      Dr Håkon Sælen, CICERO-Center for International Climate Research, Norway and co-LPI 
                                   Prof Guri Bang, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Norway

Partner PI                  Prof Lukas Meyer, University of Graz, Austria
                                   Prof Eva Schulev-Steindl, University of Graz, Institute of Public Law and Political Science, Austria
                                   Dr Hana Mullerova, Institute of State and Law of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Czech Republic
                                   Dr Misato Sato, London School of Economics and Political Science, United Kingdom
                                   Dr Fergus Green, Utrecht University, United Kingdom
                                   Prof Sam Fankhauser, London School of Economics, United Kingdom

Funding Agencies    RCN (Norway), UKRI (United Kingdom), FFG (Austria), MSMT (Czech Republic)

Project website

Picture credits: Marie-Pascale Gafinen


Climate change mitigation needs urgently to be scaled up. Yet attempts to introduce even modest climate policies in many European countries are accused of having unjust distributional effects, prompting aggrieved groups to mobilise politically to block or weaken those Solstice policies. Greater knowledge is needed about how low-carbon transitions can be structured so that they are not only socially just, but are also perceived to be so by key stakeholders, thus enhancing the transition’s political robustness. Two aspects of transition governance, both relatively neglected in the decades of research into climate policy instruments, seem promising: inclusive processes, by which affected groups have a genuine stake in the design and implementation of decarbonisation policies; and redistributive measures, by which governments couple decarbonisation policies with offsetting benefits—including benefits related to the socio-economic opportunities created by decarbonisation—for groups who would otherwise be vulnerable to its adverse

JUSTDECARB will bring together leading social science and humanities researchers from four disciplines (philosophy, political science, economics, and law) across four countries (Austria, Czech Republic, Norway, and UK) in pursuit of two overarching project objectives:
1. To fill critical gaps in the knowledge base relating to socially just and politically robust decarbonisation, with a particular focus on inclusive processes and redistributive measures (the scientific objective);
2. To develop a ‘toolkit’ to help European policymakers steer transition processes in a socially just and politically robust direction (the policy objective).

The scientific objective will be pursued via two research themes. The first research theme aims to fill critical knowledge gaps concerning the philosophy, politics and economics of transitional “winners” and “losers”, as they pertain to processes of decarbonisation, via novel, singledisciplinary research projects. One such project will use philosophical methods to clarify the conceptual and normative issues at the heart of the “social justice” dimension of decarbonisation. The second project will use methods from micro-econometrics and labour economics to better understand the difference in skill requirements between high-carbon and zerocarbon jobs, and the implications of these skill differences for the design of climate policies and complementary labour market measures. The third project will focus on political polarisation and the political behaviour of winners and losers from decarbonisation. Using both large-n survey and small-n comparative case-study methods, this third project will study how and why opposition to climate policy develops, with a view to improving the political robustness of climate policies. The focus of the case studies will be on the phase-out of oil and gas (Norway and UK) and the phase-out of coalmining and/or coal-fired power generation (Czech Republic and Austria).

Building on this work, and adding wider insights from philosophy, political science, and law, our second research theme aims to develop frameworks for evaluating the justice and robustness of, respectively: processes of public engagement applicable to the design and implementation of climate policy; and substantive climate policies, including redistributive measures. These aims will be pursued through two interdisciplinary, applied research projects.

Finally, to fulfil JUSTDECARB’s policy objective, the project team, in consultation with policymakers and civil society stakeholders, will develop a “toolkit for policymakers”. Produced with a view to policy impact, the toolkit will take the form of a report that describes the recommended steps for policymakers to take, and methods to use, as they seek to steer transition processes in a socially just and politically robust direction across the key phases of the policy cycle.