A “truly national endeavour” is needed in Scotland to make a so-called “just transition” to a greener, fairer economy, a new report has concluded.
The Just Transition Commission was set up to look at how the Scottish Government could meet climate change targets – such as the goal of net-zero emissions by 2045 – while at the same time ensuring the benefits of change are shared across society.
Chair Professor Jim Skea insisted that as the threat from coronavirus recedes, Scotland has the “opportunity to make real progress in tackling climate change, whilst improving the lives of its citizens”.
But the Commission’s final report insisted achieving this would require “a national mission, a truly national endeavour”.
It stated: “The Scottish Government has a vital role to play and must show leadership, but action will be needed from the private sector and all across Scottish society.”
The report highlighted the “disappointment” that despite the move towards renewable energy, Scotland had not yet been able to “create a thriving, competitive manufacturing base” for this key sector.
Unions have claimed raised concerns that key components for green energy projects are being manufactured overseas, rather than in Scotland, and the report said the “failure to create and sustain alternative high skill, high wage, mass employment threatens to undermine trust in efforts to pursue a just transition amongst Scottish workers and their communities”.
It added: “There are significant concerns amongst some workers, communities and their representatives that, based on experiences to date, the transition will not lead to substantive new opportunities, and will be anything but just in the way it impacts them.”
Dave Moxham, who represented the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) on the Commission, said: “Scotland urgently needs to tackle the climate emergency but the action we need to take will only be sustained if it is fair, and workers and communities across Scotland feel the benefits.
“The recommendations in this report call on Government to take action to support workers in carbon-intense sectors and start building the local supply chains that can create jobs across Scotland and power our transition to net-zero.”
The report recommends that in the next Scottish Government, the Deputy First Minister – or at least a member of the cabinet – must be responsible for ensuring a “just transition to net-zero”.
It also says there should be a “national call for action” at the Cop26 UN climate change summit in Glasgow later this year that “brings business, trade unions, and civic society together in a commitment to support just transition principles in Scotland”.
Professor Skea said: “Given the scale of change required, It is more important than ever to ensure the hearts as well as minds of the nation are aligned behind this vital goal.”
He added: “Climate action, fairness and opportunity can and must go together. This will help avoid the mistakes of previous industrial transitions, the negative effects of which continue to be felt.”
Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said ministers had established the Commission two years ago to provide advice on “how we can transition to a net-zero economy in a way that is fair to everyone and leaves no one behind”.
She insisted: “These 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.
“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 – a truly national endeavour, where everyone has a role to play.”
Cunningham thanked the Commission for its work, saying its report would help “drive policy”
She added: “We will now take time to consider the report in full with a comprehensive response to follow in late summer.
“As we work, the spotlight will be on Scotland ahead of COP26 being held in Glasgow. Just transition is a key theme for Cop26, as announced by the First Minister, and we are looking forward to showcasing our actions to deliver a just transition and working with global partners to advance this essential issue.”