Geertje Schuitema – A community perspective on just transition

Geertje Schuitema & Aparajita Banerjee
UCD College of Business, Carysfort Avenu, Blackrock, co Dublin, Ireland;
UCD College of Business, Carysfort Avenu, Blackrock, co Dublin, Ireland

A just transition is often described as an ideology [8, 25], that is, a system of ideas and ideals that aims to reduce the negative impact of energy transition on vulnerable groups. The principle behind a just transition is widely accepted, however the practical reality of a just transition plan can fail to deliver intended justice and mitigate adverse outcomes.

Taking the communities’ perspective, we show how discrepancies in the interpretation of justice and its theoretical and practical application can undermine the just transition process as well as support for future development of a region. We illustrate this by in a case study that involves a just transition process taking place in the Irish Midlands, where the peat-based electricity industry was closed in 2020. More specifically, we used qualitative research methods to collect data to at how peat workers perceived the just transition programme that was designed to provide them with a just transition.

Our results show how a gap between the “theory” and “practice” of the just transition can result in much frustration, anxiety, feelings of betrayal and anger among communities. These emotions were exacerbated by the promise of a just transition, which in the eyes of the communities was not upheld. Overall, the workers expressed strong scepticism towards the effectiveness of the just transition programme and distrusted the political motivations behind the implementation of a just transition. Such scepticism and distrust regarding just transition programmes can undermine local support for regional development.

We discuss how discrepancies in the interpretation of justice and its theoretical and practical application can lead to tensions between stakeholders, which may obstruct the just transition process in general. We argue that the discrepancy between the “theory” and “practice” can be attributed to the absence of structure in a just transition process.

Fig 1. Picture taken during protest against the layoffs as a result of the closure of local peat power plants in Laneborough, co Longford, Republic of Ireland (photo credit: Aparajita Banerjee).

[1] Banerjee, A. & Schuitema, G., (2022). How just are just transition plans? Perceptions of decarbonisation and low-carbon energy transitions among peat workers in Ireland. Energy Research & Social Sciences, accepted for publication.


I am an Associate Professor in Consumer Behaviour and Technology Adoption at UCD’s College of Business. I am an environmental psychologist who researches the psychological processes that underpin behavioural change, such as emotions, trust, fairness and social norms. I study if and how these psychological factors can be used to design interventions or policies. In particular, I study how the public accepts technologies and environmental policies in sectors like energy, raw materials, and transportation.