Ecosocialism and Just Transition

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A Socialist Project e-bulletin ... No. 1887 ... September 2, 2019

Ecosocialism and Just Transition

John Bellamy Foster

Climate change requires major societal change. But how do we ensure this transformation is done in a fair and just manner? John Bellamy Foster – a renowned environmental sociologist and editor of Monthly Review – takes a look at the idea of the Just Transition, arguing that any strategy to save the planet must go beyond the strictures of capitalism.

The idea of a "just transition" is appearing everywhere these days, most notably in the preamble of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, which refers to the need to take "into account the imperatives of a just transition of the workforce and the creation of decent work and quality jobs in accordance with nationally defined development priorities."

Just transition first arose as a guiding principle in the labour movement in the 1970s-1990s during the leadership of Tony Mazzocchi within the Oil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers International Union (OCAW), which pioneered in the creation of the labour-environmental movement. Mazzocchi sought to find a way around the "job blackmail" in which... workers were constantly told that if they supported environmental measures, they would lose their jobs. In response, he helped popularize the notion of a just transition and proposed a "Superfund for workers." This was meant to compensate workers for the costs of environmental transition, providing financial support and higher-education opportunities for displaced workers. In Mazzocchi’s words, "There is a Superfund for dirt. There ought to be one for workers." Yet, all efforts to create a Superfund for workers (in contrast to the Superfund for corporations) was blocked at every point by the dominant capitalist interests.

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