Rural and Environment

Ensuring a just transition to net-zero

March 23, 2021 by No Comments | Category Uncategorized

Scotlands journey to net-zero will require a transformation across the whole of our society and economy. We have a unique opportunity to ensure our transition is just and will drive Scotlands wellbeing, tackle inequalities and make sure everyone can benefit from a net-zero future.

Two years ago, Scottish Ministers tasked the Just Transition Commission with providing advice to Scottish Ministers on how we can transition to a net-zero economy in a way that is fair to everyone and leaves no one behind – that is what we mean by a just transition.

Since we tasked the Commission with this job, the landscape has changed immensely. We’ve passed new legislation setting us on an ambitious course to reduce emissions by 75% by 2030 and to achieve net-zero emissions by 2045. We now have the most ambitious climate legislation of any country in the world and have embedded the principles of a just transition at its heart.

The work of the Commission has taken place against the backdrop of the global coronavirus pandemic. This has been an unprecedented crisis, bringing grief and hardship to many. Our thoughts remain with those who have lost loved ones to this virus.

The pandemic has shown how abrupt, unplanned shifts can exacerbate inequalities. Now, more than ever, we need a just transition that supports sustainable economic growth and jobs, whilst ensuring no one is left behind.

The just transition principles are not an “optional extra” – they are central to how we make choices about reducing emissions in order to end our contribution to climate change. Our journey to net-zero will mean rapid and fundamental changes to the way we live, work and do business. To deliver this transformation at the pace required, changes must be fair and bring everyone on board with this national endeavour.  And of course, the scale of this structural change presents a huge opportunity to tackle existing inequality and build towards a fairer, greener, more prosperous Scotland.

The Commission is clear in its report, published today, that the transition to net-zero will impact regions and sectors differently and that managing an orderly, just transition should be a national mission. The Scottish Government agrees that delivering a net-zero future requires ambition and collaboration between national and local government, and between the public, private business and third sectors – a truly national endeavour, where everyone has a role to play.

In December 2020, we published the Climate Change Plan update together with the  draft Public Engagement Strategy, emphasising the importance of planning for a net-zero transition and putting engagement and equity at the heart of policy development. The Commission’s interim work had identified these as central for a just transition.

We have already begun embedding just transition across Scottish Government’s work. Our current Programme for Government and the Climate Change Plan update put a just transition to net-zero at the heart of our action on jobs, skills, procurement, finance and investment and a green recovery from the pandemic. The Climate Change Plan update included a range of policies to support a just transition, for example partnership with industry to plan for the transition, concessions for young people on public transport, and heat and energy efficiency policies which will support those least able to pay and help to tackle fuel poverty.

We published a Climate Emergency Skills Action Plan alongside the Plan update, setting out ambitious plans for retraining and reskilling provision to support people to access and benefit from the growing number of good, green jobs needed for Scotland’s net-zero transition, especially in areas such as renewable energy, construction and land management.

Scotland’s independent Climate Change Citizen’s Assembly will also publish their Interim Report shortly, exemplifying how we are putting people at the heart of policy making, by consulting, engaging and involving citizens in decision-making. In addition, the new draft Public Engagement Strategy will further drive engagement with Scotland’s citizens on Climate Change and help to deliver a just transition to net-zero.

There is, of course, more to do and I am grateful to the Commission for the work they have undertaken over the past two years and the many stakeholders who have helped shape that work. This report will guide our approach, drive policy development and help open up constructive and productive dialogues both in Scotland and internationally. It will be invaluable as we plan and prepare Scotland’s long term approach to a just transition to net-zero.

To achieve a just transition to a wellbeing economy, we must focus our efforts on improving our collective health, communities, connections to nature and society and ensuring everyone has secure and meaningful jobs. We need to tackle inequalities between generations, communities, places, and champion diversity and inclusion – leading to a fairer, stronger and more prosperous society. Our goal is to create a society that is thriving across economic, social and environmental dimensions, and that delivers sustainable and inclusive growth

We will now take time to consider the report in full with a comprehensive response to follow in late summer. In the meantime, the spotlight will be on Scotland in November as COP26 is being held in Glasgow. Just transition is a key theme for COP26, as announced by the First Minister. Our work so far provides solid foundations to build on and we are looking forward to both sharing our approach, and working with global partners to advance this important issue.

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