Why we need just transitions | Te take me whai whakawhitinga tika

Transitions mean fundamental changes to systems.

We’re facing disruptions. Across Aotearoa New Zealand, communities are being confronted by major challenges.

Climate change will have dire consequences unless we shift rapidly to a low-emission economy and build our resilience to rising seas, higher temperatures, and more frequent and severe storms. Natural resources are being extracted and ecosystems degraded at rates that cannot be sustained.Many people lack access to safe housing, food, transport, education, healthcare, and employment.

These are longstanding challenges and valuable work to address them is already underway. Communities, organisations, iwi, hapū and workers are already creating local solutions to problems, overcoming inequity and injustice.

But the challenges facing us have reached a stage where they require collective responses at unprecedented speed and scale. They cannot be solved by business as usual, government as usual or community as usual. They are interrelated and they cannot be addressed in isolation from each other or by token efforts at the margin.

These challenges demand fundamental transitions to new ways of living enabled by deep structural changes across social, technological, economic and environmental domains.

Transitions can be sparked by shocks, strategic intentions, or emerging opportunities. They can take place over a long period of time, like the Industrial Revolution from the mid-1700s to the mid-1800s, or can be relatively abrupt, like the effects of deregulation in Aotearoa in the 1980s and 1990s.

Transitions can occur at a global scale and have widespread impacts, like the digital revolution or the transition to renewable energy. Other transitions may be specific to a community or organisation, like recovery from a natural disaster or transforming a business model to become zero emission.

The impacts of transitions are not distributed equally or fairly, raising critical questions of social justice. Some past transitions have been extremely unjust, with serious ramifications for people’s rights, sovereignty and wellbeing, like the colonisation of Aotearoa New Zealand. Other transitions have markedly improved social conditions, like the introduction of free education.

Importantly, we have choices about how we respond to transitions. We can be reactive or proactive, exclusive or inclusive, motivated by self-interest or collective gain, and unjust or just.

Many of us can see that the current systems are not sufficient for the challenges before us and need to change. We have hope that change is possible and ideas for where change can begin. We want to work with others to create solutions.

“Transitions are always going to involve discomfort of some sort, and they won't happen unless there is discomfort. It's either going to be a physical discomfort – because we've been hit by job losses or climate change, and we know that change has to happen – or because we are confronted by discomforting ideas – ideas that make us feel uncertain or worried. We have to accept that discomfort and work through it in order to achieve lasting change.”

Just Transitions Dialogue participant