New report: 'Just Transitions' outlines how Australia can move toward a low-carbon future in the face of climate change

A new report, from MSDI, Monash Emerging Technologies Research Lab and Royal Holloway University (UK) researchers, has outlined how Australia can move equitably towards zero carbon emissions by overcoming socio-economic, location, scale and technology challenges. It offers governments, industry bodies, and civil society a set of principles for how Australia can shape transitions to decarbonisation.

The Just Transitions in Australia: moving towards low carbon lives across policy, industry and practice’ report recognises that Australia’s heavy reliance on jobs and economic activities in carbon-based energy systems and industries means a transition to low carbon will have ripple effects across multiple spheres of Australian society.

The report addresses these unique challenges and suggests key principles that government, industry and households can adopt to ensure that decarbonisation of Australia's economy and society is inclusive of all people and places and does not create new harms or inequalities. The principles encourage stakeholders to:

  • Attend to differences between and within locations and communities in terms of the potential, attributes, and local experience of systems change
  • Carefully consider the different timescales at which just transitions can be implemented across different communities and sectors
  • Engage with models of innovation beyond technology, to acknowledge the role of people, places and communities in social and institutional change needed for decarbonisation
  • Listen to and respect local knowledge, experiences and complexities in everyday life to guarantee lasting impact
  • Consider the distribution of responsibility for essential goods and services as well as fair distribution of costs and benefits among diverse groups
  • Ensure that First Nations peoples, including Traditional Owners, are empowered to participate and lead the transition
  • Encourage inclusive engagement and participation in transitions processes, which will benefit from cross-sectoral coalitions of actors
  • Deliberate and promote transparency on how the benefits and potential negative consequences of decarbonisation are understood and accurately communicated in and for localities and regions.

Co-author and MSDI's Professor of Sustainability Transitions and Deputy Director (Research), Professor Rob Raven, said the world and Australia are on the “knife's edge” of climate change, and significant modifications are needed to pivot to a sustainable and zero-carbon future.

“Australian communities have been placed under significant strain over the last few years because of the pandemic, and more recently due to floods, inflation and gas and energy shortages,” Professor Raven said.

“Rising cost of living may force some short term changes like households conserving energy but for any long-term change there needs to be a seismic shift in government policies, innovation, industry investments and behaviours in a way that is fair and opens up new opportunities to ensure that Australians from all walks of life can move towards sustainable lifestyles.”

This report is informed by studies including recent existing and ongoing research with people in communities across Australia, submissions from key organisations, expert interviews and sector-specific reviews.

Read the full report

Read more about Just Transitions