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Just Trade-offs in a Net-zero Transition and Social Impact Assessment


Countries around the world are prioritising net zero emissions to meet their Paris Agreement goals. The demand for social impact assessment (SIA) is likely to grow as this transition will require investments in decarbonisation projects with speed and at scale. There will be winners and losers of these projects because not everyone benefits the same; and hence, trade-offs are inevitable. SIAs, therefore, should focus on understanding how the risks and benefits will be distributed among and within stakeholders and sectors and enable the identification of trade-offs that are just and fair. In this study, we used a hypothetical case of large-scale hydrogen production in regional Australia and engaged with multi-disciplinary experts to identify justice issues in transitioning to such an industry. Using Rawlsian theory of justice as fairness, we identified several tensions between different groups (national, regional, local, inter and intra-communities) and sectors (environmental and economic) concerning the establishment of a hydrogen industry. These stakeholders and sectors will be disproportionately affected by this establishment. We argue that Rawlsian principles of justice would enable the practice of SIA to identify justice trade-offs. Further, we conceptualise that a systems approach will be critical to facilitate a wider participation, and an agile process for achieving just trade-offs in SIA.

Funding source: This project was funded by CSIROʼs Responsible Innovation Future Science Platform and Deep Earth Imaging Future Science Platform.
Related subjects: Policy & Socio-Economics
Countries: Australia

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