Ecosocialism and Just Transition

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