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Where does the concept of Just Transition come from?

The idea of a just transition originates in the American labour struggles of the 1970s. The Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union called for the creation of a fund to support workers made redundant due to the environmental impact of their sector of activity. 

From there, the notion of Just Transition gained ground and gradually entered the international debate.

From 2010 to 2015, the International Labor Organization (ILO) worked to develop the nine "Guidelines for a just transition towards environmentally sustainable economies and societies for all".

Also in 2015, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which is broken down into 17 Sustainable Development Goals and whose motto is "Leave no one behind". Achieving these goals will end poverty, protect the planet and guarantee peace and justice for all.

Also in 2015, the international community adopted the Paris Agreement, setting the common goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. The Agreement's Preamble echoes the work of the ILO, referring to "the imperatives of a just transition of the workforce and the creation of decent work and quality jobs".

In 2018, the Climate Walks, undertaken by thousands of young people around the world, put the achievement of the climate goals at the heart of government agendas.

As part of the implementation of the European Green Deal, the just transition has been identified as a key pillar of the European Commission's new strategy. The goal of "leaving no one behind" is self-evident: the transition will be just, or there will be no transition at all.

Resolution on just transition - International Labour Organization. Find out more.

The consideration of the most vulnerable people and the implementation of policies that effectively combat the exceeding of planetary limits and inequalities appear to be within reach.

What about Belgium?

In 2019, the Climate Coalition made numerous references to the just transition in its memorandum for the Belgian and European elections, calling in particular for the organisation of a national conference on the just transition.

On 30 September 2020, the request was heard and the National Conference for a Just Transition was enshrined in the Vivaldi Federal Government Agreement. 

This Conference for a Just Transition is seen not as an endpoint, but as the start of a long process that should lead us fairly and democratically towards a climate-neutral, circular Belgium by 2050

In November 2020, the Federal Council for Sustainable Development published an opinion on "a just transition towards ecologically sustainable economies and societies for all", revealing the challenges Belgium will face in the coming years, challenges that can become economic, social and environmental opportunities.

On 24 May 2022, Minister Zakia Khattabi announced the launch of the General Estates for a Just Transition. They comprise four working groups: a High Committee of 24 scientists, a Civil Society Forum, a Citizens' Agora and the federal administrations. The General Assembles took place in 2022 and 2023, each contributing to the Conference for a Just Transition in Belgium in November 2023. 

The Conference for a Just Transition in Belgium was held on 8 and 9 November 2023. It was an opportunity to take stock of the contributions of the General Estates, as well as the opinions on the subject of just transition submitted by several bodies and institutions. 

A fundamental rights-based approach

The just transition is the path to a sustainable society. Respect for the principle of justice presupposes that the transition will improve the well-being of the population. With this in mind, the fundamental needs approach is a way of thinking about the desirability of tomorrow's world: a world in which everyone will have a roof over their heads, quality food, access to culture and entertainment, education, healthcare and active mobility. Satisfying these needs is what enables human fulfilment and prosperity while respecting planetary limits.

justtransition - food


Our current food systems have a considerable impact on the environment. Agriculture is responsible for almost a quarter of the world's greenhouse gas emissions when deforestation is taken into account (the reasons for which are often agricultural). 
In addition, agriculture is heavily impacted by the effects of climate change, such as the intensification of extreme weather events (droughts, floods, etc.). 
The transition is therefore a challenge both to reduce the impact of our agricultural production systems on the environment and to ensure our food sovereignty and security.

justtransition - housing
justtransition - housing


Putting a roof over your head and having a safe place to live are human necessities. Infrastructure investments represent an opportunity to develop dignified, high-quality living spaces. Furthermore, Belgium's housing stock is one of the country's biggest energy consumers. Given the trend towards denser cities and the need for energy-efficient buildings that are accessible to all, housing is set to change. 
At the same time, rising energy prices in recent years have already forced many people into energy poverty, underlining the need to increase renewable energy production and make it affordable and accessible to all.

justtransition - Self-care
justtransition - Self-care


Human health is closely linked to that of our direct environment. On the one hand, ensuring a quality environment influences human well-being. On the other hand, improving human living spaces by improving air quality, developing green spaces and guaranteeing water and soil quality helps to develop biodiverse ecosystems. Circularising healthcare systems, enabling them to meet sustainability criteria and developing an environmental health policy are essential.
Furthermore, over and above the issues linked to the healthcare system as such, there is the issue of its financing flows. With this in mind, the future and financing of Social Security are key issues. The transition to a carbon-neutral and circular society will change the formation and circulation of financial values, and projections show that current financing methods will not be sufficient to guarantee the sustainability of the model as it exists today. It is therefore important to consider the financial viability and maintenance of our collective solidarity systems in the years to come.

justtransition - travel
justtransition - travel


The ability to travel is a key factor in structuring social relationships; access to employment, education, food, healthcare, leisure, etc., all depend on access to a fast, efficient means of transport. 
Mobility is not just about people, it is also about the economy. It is still heavily dependent on fossil fuels, which are essential for the production, import and export of material goods. An energy transition therefore implies changing our transport infrastructures, which are currently designed to use technologies heavily dependent on fossil fuels (aeroplanes, cars, etc.).

justtransition - entertainment
justtransition - entertainment


Access to culture and entertainment is essential to personal development as well as to social cohesion. By sharing common narratives, culture enables us to develop not only a common identity but also critical and civic-minded individuality. Entertainment, the arts and sport all nourish a quest for meaning and enhance a society's human well-being. In the transition to a society that respects planetary limits, guaranteeing these basic human needs will help nurture the values of our democratic societies.

justtransition - education
justtransition - education


In a changing world, access to education is essential for the development of human capabilities. Whether in the first years of life or the last, the transmission of knowledge and education enriches everyone and is a source of fulfilment. Providing access to lifelong learning enables citizens to be involved in the development of their society, live and work with dignity, and make informed decisions.