Moral rifts in the coal phase-out

how mayors shape distributive and recognition-based dimensions of a just transition in Lusatia | Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning


Transitions towards low-carbon societies trigger renegotiations of justice concerns in
regions that have to abandon unsustainable, fossil-based production patterns. In
these transition regions, tensions may appear between inner- and supra-regional
justice claims on the one hand, and recognition-based and distributional justice
concerns on the other. Intermediary actors such as municipal politicians have to
navigate these spatial and moral tensions. Based on qualitative data generated in
the German lignite-mining region of Lusatia, ‘moral rifts’ are reconstructed that
shape local perceptions of justice. These rifts help elucidate how reconciliation in
this region proves to be difficult despite considerable redistributive efforts. Unless
patterns of misrecognition are adequately addressed, prospects for a successful
transformation of the region remain limited.


  • Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS), Potsdam, Germany

  • Faculty of Science, Institute for Science in Society (ISiS), Radboud University, Nijmegen, Netherlands