Equitable, Sustainable, and Just: A Transition Framework

As climate change accelerates, so do demands for a transition away from an extractive fossil fuel economy toward one that is ecologically sustainable. Yet efforts to advance that transition may exacerbate inequitable distributions of climate hazards and economic opportunities. Just Transition is a theory of change that recognizes that those least culpable for the climate crisis are most burdened by its effects. While Just Transition is gaining a foothold in climate policy and academic circles, legal scholars have yet to fully consider how structural racism, labor law, and environmental policy are likely to perpetuate this inequity in a green economy. This Article proposes a transition framework integrating racial equity, environmental justice, and collective labor power. Applying this framework to energy transition initiatives, such as Colorado’s Just Transition Plan, reveals critical gaps for frontline workers and fenceline communities. Creating energy transition law and policy that advances racial equity, worker power, and principles of environmental justice will be necessary for a transition to an equitable, sustainable, and just economy.