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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Fossil fuel phase outs to meet global climate targets : investigating the spatial and temporal dimensions of just transitions Pai, Sandeep


Fossil fuel industries currently employ millions and contribute to local and national economies. However, to keep global warming well below 2°C, fossil fuels need to dramatically decline. Scholars in many academic fields are focusing on “just transition” strategies for mitigating the impact of fossil fuel industry declines on workers and their communities. The research on this topic is nascent, and limited to conceptualizing and defining the role of stakeholders in just transition planning, and investigating renewable energy jobs as an option for fossil fuel workers. In this dissertation, I conducted a systematic review of the academic literature on just transition to synthesize identified elements of just transition. Next, I collected a novel employment factors dataset and combined it with an integrated assessment model to analyze the energy sector employment implications of climate policies. I also assessed whether ‘local’ renewable jobs can be created for fossil fuel workers in key coal producing countries. Finally, I collected several novel datasets to quantify and compare the scale of current socio-economic dependency on coal at the district level in India. Three primary insights emerge from this research. First, just transition literature to date has focused on coal workers in OECD countries and is largely normative. The existing literature provides key elements of a just transition that vary in spatial scale, justice forms, and timeframe. Second, while renewable energy jobs could offset fossil fuel job losses in the aggregate in most countries, this is not true everywhere. Moreover, it may not always be feasible to create ‘local’ renewable jobs for fossil fuel workers. This highlights the need to focus on non-renewable industries for fossil fuel workers’ job transition. Third, there can be large variations in the scale and type of socio-economic dependency on fossil fuels within a country. Overall, this dissertation shows the need for a more holistic understanding of the implications of fossil fuel industry declines on workers and communities.

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