Rural and Environment
Just transition to Net Zero
A “just transition” is a principle that is front and centre of Scotland’s ambition to end our contribution to climate change. It is a concept which is rightly gathering momentum across the globe and emerging as a pivotal theme of the climate debate, with Scotland in the lead.
Fundamentally it is about ensuring that, as we reduce our emissions and respond to a changing climate, the journey is fair and creates a better future for everyone – regardless of where they live, what they do, and who they are. We must ensure that no-one is left behind.
Many of us remember the shocks caused by other sudden economic changes, such the closure of our coal mines. Too many people and communities were left behind, with the scars still there today and with successive generations paying the price. This is what can happen when structural change in our economy is not managed properly and the impact on people’s lives and livelihoods is ignored.
The journey to net zero emissions will continue to fundamentally change our economy and our society, and my responsibility is to ensure that these changes result in better lives for all the people of Scotland and tackle inequality. I am acutely aware that the great opportunity of our transition could quickly become an intolerable risk if we do not do it in the right way, with the right priorities, and if we don’t make plans that are focussed on people and bring everyone on the journey with us.
There is much to be excited about in the transition to net zero. The move to renewable heating, more sustainable farming practices, embracing new technologies – all of these are fantastic economic opportunities for Scottish businesses and communities.
The jobs many of us have in the run up to 2045 will be new jobs, some will be jobs that don’t even exist yet. The education and skillsets that future generations pursue may be unrecognisable to us.
This year, we will see the world’s biggest and most important global climate summit take place in Scotland. A just transition and people are the key themes of the Scottish Government’s COP26 programme.
The summit provides an opportunity to show how Scotland is leading the way. Just transition principles are at the heart of our climate legislation and an independent commission has considered what this means for Scotland. We have a suite of activity and investment that is already helping us to both tackle climate change and address our social and economic challenges. But there is much more to do.
My first task in this new role is to listen. I want to speak to workforces across the country, to communities, to people who have lived through and continue to experience the inequality that mismanaged transitions have created.
Our collective experience during the coronavirus pandemic has reinforced that our health and wellbeing must be the measure that drives our recovery from the pandemic and our long-term economic strategy.
Making the economy work for people and our environment, so that we are not pushing beyond the resources of our planet in the pursuit of economic growth, must be our goal. A just transition will ensure that everyone’s health and wellbeing is at the heart of our net-zero economy. In short, it becomes a wellbeing economy.
COP26 is the world’s best chance to make the goals of the Paris Agreement a reality. Holding this event in Glasgow is a unique opportunity to demonstrate the world-leading climate action Scotland is taking, with people and well-being at the centre of all we do.
COP26 can inspire all of us to drive towards a net zero future, with a just transition that is fair to all. We’ll play our full part in getting there and build a network of likeminded nations to work with us.
This is our moment to commit to building a better, fairer world. Let’s continue to work together to seize it.