About the Just Urban Transitions project

Just Urban Transitions is a project that focuses on unpacking the consequences of South Africa’s low-carbon transition, focussing mainly on the energy transition, for the urban context.

What is the Just Urban Transitions project?

Just Urban Transitions is a project that aims to support sense-making and policymaking and implementation for South Africa’s just transition. It is focussed, particularly, on urban contexts as critical sites of transition, with diverse and specific challenges and opportunities that are not always visible at the national scale. Within these contexts, in cities and towns across the country, transformation within the energy system, particularly electricity and liquid fuels for transport, is paramount. There is, however, a disconnect between national energy, power sector and just transition policy and planning, and bottom-up (municipal) strategies for urban-scale sustainable energy transition and low-carbon development.

There are many actors who work to support municipal governments in mediating this interface. Notably, the South African Local Governments Association (SALGA) provides both technical and political support. The Just Urban Transitions project exists to support these efforts. We collaborate with other organisations working on relevant issues to surface and characterise risks, challenges, opportunities, responses, as well as facilitating shared frameworks for sensemaking and action. 

The Just Urban Transitions project is designed and implemented by Adapt. The project is implemented through collaborations with different local and international organisations and individuals.

The policy and practice gap

There is an urgent need for a coherent investigation and delineation of South Africa's just transition for cities and towns

While significant work exists to focus on a range of relevant practical, conceptual and policy questions for just urban transitions, there is still a significant policy vacuum regarding coherent policy and planning that makes sense across the South Africa’s different municipalities. Additionally, there is a need for scoping of and planning for dynamics between urban and rural settings and the implications for local government planning and capacity.

Local-level challenges are underrepresented in the national conversation on a just and sustainable energy transition.

Much of the current discourse is focused on the national utility, Eskom, and its current troubles. While this is undeniably important, concurrent attention to other important parts of the system is necessary. It is critical that local governments, provincial governance, and all public, private and civil society stakeholders involved in urban energy governance are empowered to drive just transitions wherever they are.

Diversity between local contexts also has significant implications for equity in low-carbon transition processes and outcomes. South Africa’s inequalities exist between different provinces, between cities and towns, and within these cities and towns. Each level of inequality has consequences for what is possible and what is necessary for just urban transitions to be adequately supported. 

Just urban transitions have multiple diverse stakeholders.

A wide range of stakeholders are active and have a stake in urban energy governance and transition planning, across levels of government, as well as different scales. This includes bridging conceptual and communications gaps between national and subnational policy and planning. These stakeholder require clear, facilitated processes and support to enable coherent planning and action.