Just transition and the geopolitics of decarbonization in the EU

This brief explores how the European Union (EU) Green Deal operationalizes the concept of just transition. It shows how the EU Commission’s approach to just transition may influence the politics of decarbonization within the EU. The EU’s “territorial” approach builds engagement with subnational carbon-intensive regions as a political strategy to generate action and bottom-up support towards decarbonization, despite the resistance of the national leadership.

Key messages

  • The EU’s territorial approach to just transition strengthens subnational authorities’ agency in decarbonization efforts.
  • By such “rescaling” of aspects of the EU’s decarbonization policy, the Just Transition Mechanism of the EU Green Deal challenges the historical politics of decarbonization in the EU.
  • Indicators proposed to assess the effectiveness of the Territorial Just Transition Plans lack provisions to monitor their impacts on vulnerable groups. The absence of monitoring raises questions about whether such plans will be fair in practice.
  • EU member states must incorporate just transition into their foreign policy and aid programmes to support carbon-intensive regions outside the EU, especially in low-income countries.


Authors of this publication

Claudia Strambo ,