Just Transitions Graduate School

A group of students working

The aim of the Just Transitions graduate school is to build knowledge and competence about how a just climate transition can be implemented in a local context.

The graduate school is based on two building blocks:

  1. Seven doctoral projects that are integrated into the activities of the public parties, with supervisors coming from both academia and practitioners.
  2. The establishment of a Swedish platform for just climate transitions, which is run by Urban Futures, and is also available to doctoral students and professionals outside the graduate school.

The graduate school's activities involve both these building blocks and are designed to together create an ‘ecosystem’ of different learning situations between different fields of research, and between research and practice.

The positioning of the graduate school at the intersection of a number of different but interconnected fields of research and practices relating to governance, climate change, urban justice, and transdisciplinary and cross-border cooperation, marks an important step in linking together past knowledge and experience in all these fields. In this way, an integrated perspective on management and governance is developed to address the challenges we face in achieving a just climate transition.

About Just Transitions - Graduate school on governance for just urban and regional climate transition

An undertaking with many players

The graduate school is being set up by five public and three academic partners.

    • Linköping University
    • Gothenburg University
    • Chalmers University of Technology
    • The collaborative arena Urban Futures Centre, Gothenburg
    • City of Linköping
    • Norrköping Municipality
    • County Administrative Board of Östergötland County
    • City of Gothenburg
    • Region Västra Götaland

Four cross-cutting themes

Together, these actors create a learning environment between relevant fields of research, and between research and municipal and regional practice.

The graduate school is structured based on four cross-cutting themes, which together form a framework for a fair climate transition:

  1. Conflicts and dilemmas in urban planning and decision-making for just climate transitions
  2. The concept of ‘justice’ as a starting point for urban and regional climate transformations
  3. Cross-border research and transition methods
  4. Capacity and competence for a just urban climate transition

Just climate transition

The purpose of the Just Transitions graduate school is to build knowledge and competence about how a just climate transition can be implemented in a local context. 

Through the involvement of seven doctoral projects in municipal and regional processes, knowledge of the prerequisites and abilities required for cooperation, governance and management towards a just climate transition is developed.

In a transdisciplinary collaboration, doctoral students at the graduate school will develop their projects based on the existing and future needs of the public parties involved and their respective disciplinary starting points.

Leading a transition towards a climate-just society

There is a lack of knowledge on how a just climate transition will come about and what it will look like.

Climate change is the greatest challenge of our time. Achieving globally agreed temperature levels is still possible but will require profound change in all sectors. That is why policy makers are being called upon to take swift, and sometimes drastic, action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Many cities have already formulated ambitious climate plans and targets. In these, a focus on justice is becoming increasingly important in order to enable a society that not only has low CO2 emissions, but also offers an adequate environment for all citizens.

However, although justice is increasingly linked to the climate challenge, there is no knowledge of how a just climate transition will come about and what it will look like. For example, the fields of knowledge that have developed around transition have only to a limited extent been integrated with established research into justice, less still with urban justice. Other challenges concern the governance and management of transition. There is a need for new knowledge on how public organisations can build the ability to lead and organise for the complex challenges resulting from a just climate transition.

Such challenges are sometimes called ‘insidious’ to describe their high degree of unpredictability, and that opining and subjective knowledge influence how they are understood and managed. At the same time, these problems affect many different societal actors, decision-making levels, disciplines and sectors, and extend across geographical and organisational borders. All of this means that the management of insidious problems, as part of planning for, and transitioning to a climate-just future, requires new forms of governance and cooperation based, among other things, on reflection and exploring alternative options.

An increasing body of research into sustainable transition indicates that this type of exploratory practice requires a multidisciplinary approach, that is, a context in which research and practice interact and drive knowledge and solution development together. Knowledge is thus not applied to an existing practice, but is generated together on the basis of the problem as it has arisen in practice, and can then be used in the relevant situation. This enables all involved to better implement and utilise the results generated from such a process.

Just Transitions graduate school takes the intersection that arises between climate adaptation and inclusive community building as its starting point, and builds on the methods, knowledge and skills needed to lead a transition towards a climate-just society.


1. Conflicts and dilemmas in urban planning and decision-making for just climate transitions

Plans and strategies to mitigate climate change and attend to urban justice (e.g., seeing to equal living conditions, resolving social unrest) tend to be incorporated parallel to many other running and strategic and plans, tasks, and goals of the public organisations. More or less visibly, and on different levels, these ambitions can be conflictual and thereby stall much needed actions. Conflicts can cause friction but are also a central element of transition governance, in which the dynamics of and relationship between conflictual issues and problems need to be embraced rather than stifled.

A leading question in this theme is: What dilemmas, conflicts and zones of friction emerge in the pursue of ‘just climate transitions’ at the urban level, and how can they be identified and dealt with at different planning and governance levels in the urban arena?

3. Boundary-spanning methods for research and transformations

Transdisciplinary, transition, design, urban planning, and organizational studies, all recognize boundary organizations, boundary work and boundary spanning practices and individuals, as crucial elements of transformative change. Each however also picture how knowledge and competences generated outside the scope of permanent praxis, residing within a boundary crossing organization, project or individual, does not necessarily induce transformative change.

A leading question in this theme is: What boundary-spanning methods and practices are needed to pursue just climate transitions, and how can they be integrated or be made relevant to established practice?

2. Justice as a tenet for urban climate transitions 

Several different research fields explore ‘justice’ as a situated, relational and spatial practice, and/or as distributive, procedural and recognitional. The political scientist Nancy Fraser (2008) conceptualizes the economic dimension of redistribution, the cultural dimension of recognition, and the political dimension of representation, as interrelated and interdependent dimensions that cannot be separated from each other in practice. Any transformation towards a ‘just’ society needs to take all of them into account.

A leading question in this theme is: What are the implications of these perspectives in the much urgent climate transition, and how can such perspectives be incorporated in the municipal and regional planning and governance of ‘just’ climate transitions?



4. Capacities and competences for just climate transitions

The governance of just climate transitions likely requires a whole new set of capacities and capabilities within the public organizations, to handle emergent and cross-cutting challenges and the new perspectives and relations involved with seeing to the implementation of climate mitigation options while attending to matters of justice.

A leading question in this theme is: What specific and concrete transformative capacities, capabilities and competencies are needed and can be built into public organizations, within and across different urban and regional planning and governance levels?