Transition Income

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Katharina Bohnenberger:

Another variation of basic income is the transition income. It is money that is provided to a certain group of people depending on specific circumstances, conditions, and behavior. It is similar to a universal participation income, which is only provided for meaningful contributions to society [20], with meaningful being focused on environmental considerations. Contrary to universal basic income, it does not have to be given on a regular basis but also as a lump sum. It can also be given to non-individuals like households and is strung to certain, ecologically relevant, conditions. In distinction to the other benefit systems and in commonality with UBI, it is issued in monetary terms, hence it can also be called a green conditional basic income [63]. Recently, the concept has gained some attention in sustainable welfare research with proposals like the Ecological Basic Income proposal of Schachtschneider [88] and the Ecological Transition Income of Swaton [89]. The job-guarantee [90,91] can be interpreted as a variation of the transition income when the jobs offered are particularly resource-light or contribute to environmental conservation in one or the other way.

Transition income is not a wide-spread proposal, but several real-worlds cases have been analyzed: The Brasilian Bolsa Verde is one example where funds are given to families in environmental conservation areas on the condition that they participate in environmental training activities, engage in forest revitalization projects, and refrain from environmentally damaging activities [63]. Also, the German Green Civil Service Programme can be interpreted as a green job guarantee, although the level of income and limited duration lowers attractiveness for most citizens. A transition income might also be issued when workers lose employment in brown sectors due to climate protection measures e.g., automobile exnovation, or as an income guarantee during times of retraining for green skills. A low transition income might also be issued as compensation for carbon taxes [92]. This could be particularly effective when conditioning it on certain green behavior like abolishing the car or not flying. For an ecological transition, which entails a necessary phase-out of certain activities, a transition income could speed up the transition time as this could activate latent willingness to opt-out of unsustainable sectors. Such a transition income could work like a “climate strike fund” for the most climate-damaging jobs and sectors. It could undermine the “climate-political corporatism” [93] that has aligned the interests of workers with capital around growth-strategies. Instead, it would offer the security to experiment with alternative, more sustainable ways of living [66] and contribute towards sustainable work [59].

Yet, the green conditions being attached to income transfers are faced with reservations: Options for pro-environmental behavior might not be equally available to everyone, reinforcing existing inequalities and they might particularly target the poor although wealthier people are expected to be the first to transform lifestyles [63]. These arguments are more valid when it comes to pro-environmental consumption choices than transition income that is paid as a substitute for the exit out of polluting jobs. The transition income could be paid for a short-term period and in order to promote a transition e.g., from brown to green sectors, or paid for a longer period as a form of “ecosystems service payment” for ecological protection activities or sustainable lifestyles (e.g., reduced-working hours, low-carbon-lifestyles). Although needs are not at the center of the transition income, it could be part of a new form of social insurance for climate-change-related risks [94,95]." (