Securing just green transition in the European Arctic

In accordance with the EU Green Deal, the member countries should be carbon dioxide neutral by 2050. To achieve this goal, society must go through a challenging transition. A new research project coordinated by the University of Lapland in Finland aims to investigate how justice can be secured in the green transition in the Arctic.

The duration of the project is 3+3 years. It has been granted a total of approximately 2,7 million euros and up to twice the amount for the second period by the Research Council of Finland. The project will report its first preliminary results in 2025. Tanja Joona is a Docent in Public international law and leader of the research project. As holder of the Arctic Five Chair in Just Green Transition, 20 percent of her salary is funded by Arctic Five, a partnership framework comprised by the University of Lapland, University of Oulu, Luleå University of Technology, Umeå University, and UiT The Arctic University of Norway.

I think the idea of the Arctic Five Chairs is excellent. Thanks to the position as a chair, it has been possible for me to apply for funding, with which I can now hire researchers who do not have permanent jobs. Now, it is my time to repay the trust and funding invested in me by carrying through this research project effectively.

Joona Tanja

Tanja Joona. Photo: Santeri Happonen

The EU Green Deal will require vast amounts of new energy resources and minerals, such as energy from windmills, hydrogen plants, and rare-earth elements needed in the fossil-free energy industry. A substantial share of the rare-earth elements in Europe can be found in the European Arctic. Many windmill parks and other land-consuming projects are situated, or planned to be situated, in the same region. The research project will thus focus on land use issues in Arctic Finland, but the outcomes should be applicable to the other countries in the European Arctic since the circumstances – socially, politically, economically, culturally and ecologically – are similar.

The European Arctic is often viewed as enormous regions of wasteland by people in the south and thus suitable for land-consuming projects. But there are activities taking place here, for example, tourism and recreation for people living in the region and traditional livelihoods, such as reindeer herding, that compete with the planned green deal projects. The interests of people engaged in these activities must be considered if we are to talk about a just transition, explains Tanja Joona.

Just transition is a manifold notion and thus requires a manifold perspective. For example, it contains the question: Who should be recognised as a stakeholder, and what rights should they have to participate in the decision-making processes? Another question is: Who should be compensated and how for economic, cultural, and social costs due to the transition, and how should the risks and benefits of the projects be distributed?

To answer these questions, researchers from many disciplines will participate in the project, for example, Finnish and international law, political science, sociology, geography, arts and design, and education. Further, it is essential for the project that the stakeholders related to land use will take part in the project. This will be secured with various methods used in participatory action research in which researchers and stakeholders collaborate to understand the concept of just transition and take actions to bring about social change. Tanja Joona stresses that the project’s aim is not to work against the fossil-free industry; just transition means considering the interests of all stakeholders in the transition process that includes the fossil-free industry.

We will also recognise children living in the Arctic as stakeholders in the transition process.

In line with the idea of participatory action research, the project aims not only to present the results in a research article.

We want to create a hybrid organisation where stakeholders can meet and solve conflicts of interest. When the decision-makers in Brussels google “Just transition in the Arctic,” our hybrid organisation should be number one on the list.

Read more about the project .

Read more about the Arctic Five Chairs.

Read more about Tanja Joona Arctic Five Chair.

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