Just Transition Commission - letter to chair of commission: 21 December 2022

A response from Richard Lochhead MSP, Minister for Just Transition, Employment and Fair Work, to Professor Jim Skea, chair of the Just Transition Commission.


Dear Jim,

Thank you for your letter of the 2 of November 2022, in which you provided an update on the work of the Just Transition Commission and also your letter of 12 December 2022, in which you provided an update following the Commission meeting on 9 December. I was glad to have the opportunity to discuss this briefly with you on Wednesday the 14th of December, where we agreed:

  1. Scottish Government officials and the Commission secretariat would cooperate on a Memorandum of Understanding that would explicitly set out expectations regarding the way the Commission, Ministers and Officials would work together in the coming months.
  2. I am keen to be more personally involved in the ongoing work of the Commission, and have asked officials to liaise with the Secretariat regarding the most useful way of doing this in a way that aligns with your Commission’s work plan.
  3. The Commission would be revisiting its own Terms of Reference. Both MoU and ToR would be published online in due course.

Firstly, I would like to stress my appreciation for your ongoing work: the commitment, critical challenge and advice offered by the Commission has been invaluable in informing Scotland’s approach to a just transition. I am acutely aware of the time and effort that commission members are devoting to provide critical challenge and advice on the Government’s just transition plans. It is imperative that we maintain the diverse level of expertise offered by commission members.

We have made progress, but I am under no illusions about the amount of work that needs to be done to deliver on our collective hopes for Scotland. The Commission’s role in shaping this is absolutely crucial and I would like to establish much closer personal involvement with your work as our approach to planning develops.

For example, during our call I offered to meet with you quarterly to discuss progress and update you on developments in our work. This could focus on substantive policy as well as how the process is being delivered so that we can better draw in your expertise and challenge throughout the policy development process. I will ask officials to work with you on the most appropriate frequency and practicalities, to align with your work plan.

Below I will also detail a proposal for short term action at official level on the ESJTP to complement this and support your valuable scrutiny on that Plan.

I am pleased that work is underway on a Memorandum of Understanding between the Commission and the Scottish Government and have encouraged officials to help in any way they can to see this completed as soon as possible. In the context of your recent letter, I view this as an opportunity to formalise mutual expectations. Alongside this, I will ensure that officials work with you on a detailed forward plan of engagement for 2023. 

Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan (ESJTP)

In your 12 December letter you referred specifically to the Commission’s role in developing a draft Energy Strategy and Just Transition plan. I would like to focus on agreeing a series of tangible next steps for how we work together on this and, indeed, on forthcoming Just Transition Plans.

As the first just transition plan, our approach to ESJTP is unique: our experience of developing a draft for consultation has informed the way we are approaching work on other sectoral just transition plans for the coming year. Our framework for Just Transition Planning emphasises an iterative approach to developing plans and your continued input will be critical during delivery and any future refinement.

I have asked officials to work with your secretariat on concrete plans for involvement in the ESJTP consultation. As a minimum I would expect to enable:

  • a detailed discussion of the draft ESJTP, as part of your first meeting of the new year – subject to agreement from the Commission, I would like to attend part of a session of this where Commissioners will be able to provide initial feedback to me directly
  • a second meeting to enable further discussion with officials prior to submitting your formal consultation response
  • an agreed means of further communication and involvement, as required, between those two fixed meeting to enable additional dialogue and discussion

As part of the MoU discussions I suggest that we agree a similar forward programme of engagement for 2023 between officials and the Commission, in relation to the other sector Just Transition Plans.

October’s Lewis meeting, Making the Future report and Scottish Government’s approach to considering Commission recommendations

I am pleased that the Commission found the October meeting on the Isle of Lewis to be helpful and productive – it was a pleasure to join virtually and meet with the Commission for the first time. I welcome the decision to extend scrutiny and advice to all relevant portfolios.

I also welcome the prospect of new appointments to the Commission and the work to formalise the working group structure utilised during the preparation of your last report.

I must again extend my thanks to the Commission for their work on the July report “Making the Future” – I found the discussion we had on this very useful, especially to hear Commissioners outline particular areas of importance for upcoming sectoral Just Transition Plans. We will be addressing the report’s recommendations in each of the relevant sectoral plans, starting with the Commission’s recommendations on the energy sector in the upcoming ESJTP. 

Where practicable, officials may continue to respond to stand-alone proposals in detail. However, many of the recommendations proposed by the Commission are cross-cutting in their nature and / or do not align with single ongoing strategies and initiatives. For this reason, my officials will actively use the Commission’s expert advice to inform our approach to developing policy for the upcoming sectoral Just Transition Plans and the engagement and monitoring that will be carried out as part of these plans.

You noted that the Commission has a key role to play in pressing a level of ambition that might, at times, surpass where Government policy or deliverability might be. Crucially you noted that where this occurred, it was to be welcomed as a sign that the Commission were fulfilling their purpose. I could not agree more and I would urge the Commission to remain in the space of pushing maximum ambition and pace, even if Government cannot always deliver as you would like.

In your letter of 12 December, you mention the Committee on Climate Change’s report released last week and reiterate the need for credibility in the government’s actions. As I mentioned during my appearance at the Economy and Fair Committee last week, the challenges, and opportunities, associated with net zero are great. We need to accelerate the pace at which we are working, and I would expect our MoU to explicitly provide appropriate foundations for this.

I am determined to ensure that Scotland remains at the forefront of progress on just transition. To do this, we will need to utilise the world class advice, support and critical challenge provided by the Commission. I, and my officials, look forward to continuing our collaboration with the Commission into 2023 and beyond. I look forward to our next meeting and thank you again for all your work during a busy and productive 2022.

Richard Lochhead MSP

Minister for Just Transition, Employment and Fair Work

Annex A

Just Transition plans

I thought it would be helpful to outline our thinking to date on Just Transition Plans, including the process we are undergoing at present. This includes efforts to refine the purpose of JT Plans and to streamline the overarching outcomes each Plan must aim to meet.

The purpose of Just Transition plans is to:

  • maximise the economic benefits of Scotland’s transition to net zero, including ensuring a pipeline of skills for net zero jobs
  • ensure fair distribution of opportunities, benefits and risks, including consideration of community benefits, and how to adapt to the impacts of climate change, and
  • ensure an inclusive and fair process via co-design with stakeholders and the public

Eachplan must interpret the following overarching themes into a series of sector-specific outcomes:

  • jobs, skills and economic opportunities
  • communities and places
  • people and equity
  • environment, biodiversity and adaptation

These outcomes, and the indicators to measure progress towards delivery, will undoubtedly become an important tool in the Commission’s scrutiny of just transition in Scotland. For reference, I have included the draft ESJTP just transition outcomes below.

My officials will involve the Commission throughout the development of the Scottish Government’s approach to planning. The development of our sectoral Just Transition Plans begins with a period of intensive evidence gathering and analysis, which will inform outline drafts for each sector plan, which we have committed to publish by Spring 2023. These outlines will be essential as they will provide the basis for the co-design process for each plan. To ensure productive and informed co-design we will design these early plans to include initial policy proposals – a process that will be aligned with our Climate Change Plan policy development.

Between Spring and Summer 2023, we will carry out a sustained period of engagement to deliver on our co-design commitments for each sectoral plan. This will facilitate an iterative approach to policy development that involves stakeholders at an early stage. During this period we will also carry out extensive consultation on the Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan (ESJTP). Our draft Just Transition plans will then be published for consultation alongside the next CCP before the end of 2023.

We will aim to publish the draft ESJTP early next year. This has been an extensive process, involving views from almost 1,500 individuals across Scotland and parallel evidence gathering and analysis, ranging from potential scenarios for the whole energy system to significant research and analysis into sectors such as oil and gas.

The draft ESJTP will set out Scotland’s first draft Just Transition Plan but it will not look like subsequent plans. To support the coherence and flow of the wider ESJTP the JT elements are clearly signposted but are integrated into the wider document. So while this gives a clear set of draft just transition outcomes and outlines actions to support delivering against those outcomes, it is not in the format that the outline Plans will be next year.

Annex B

ESJTP draft Just Transition outcomes

Jobs, skills and economic opportunities

  • more jobs – the transition to net zero has resulted in net positive employment in the energy economy
  • better jobs – the jobs created in the net zero energy economy are good, meaningful, high value and sustainable jobs, underpinned by a commitment to collective bargaining and ensuring workers have the ability to shape their place of work

  • access to jobs – people have the skills to make meaningful choices about jobs in the energy sector and employers have access to a skilled workforce. These jobs further the diversification of the workforce and young people of all backgrounds aspire to them. People can access jobs in their area and communities
  • renewables are a critical part of Scotland’s economy – the renewable energy sector is a valuable and growing part of Scotland’s wider economy in terms of gross value added (GVA), trade, supply chains, investment and prosperous businesses. Fossil fuel companies’ operations in Scotland have successfully diversified and transitioned to compete and grow the net zero economy
  • a continuously innovative and competitive energy sector – the net zero energy economy is innovative and competitive (in domestic and international markets) and has capitalised on the opportunities of growing and creating markets to develop intellectual property, supply chains, and exports

Communities

  • maximised energy production and community ownership – communities have been supported to maximise their energy production potential, which will vary by geography, including increasing the number of community owned energy assets, supporting their energy security and energy affordability
  • community empowerment – communities have been empowered to shape their energy use, the infrastructure they host and to maximise the benefit they receive from that
  • local content and job creation – local content, local job creation and wider community benefit has been increased in major energy infrastructure projects, such as Scotwind and the development of larger wind and hydrogen projects
  • supporting regions and communities most at risk – recognising that the energy transition will not impact all communities equally, particular support and provision, such as the North East and Moray Just Transition Fund and the Energy Transition Fund, has supported the transition of those regions and communities most at risk

People and equity

  • affordable energy that reduces poverty and furthers equity – people have access to energy efficient housing, and affordable clean energy without sacrificing other basic needs (such as food). Actions to reduce fuel poverty and child poverty were aligned to ensure both statutory targets were met. People with additional energy needs, such as those experiencing disability, have been supported with energy costs
  • access to transport – people and places have access to the energy needed for transport regardless of location and socioeconomic background
  • fair distribution of costs – the costs of the energy transition have not disproportionally been borne by vulnerable households
  • improved health outcomes – energy transition has improved health outcomes, including e.g. indoor and outdoor air quality

Adaptation, biodiversity and environment

  • adaptation and resilience – power assets and the power system have reduced vulnerability to the impacts of climate change, including storminess, higher temperatures and flooding, and the most vulnerable people are prioritised in instances of power failure to ensure a reliable and affordable power supply for all in a net zero economy
  • environmental protection and restoration – the energy transition supports Scotland’s ambitions for restoring nature and biodiversity - including by carefully managing and avoiding potential negative impacts in Scotland and overseas - as part of our joined up approach to tackling the climate and nature crises
  • natural capital – our net zero energy system helps to restore and rebuild Scotland’s natural capital
  • access to the natural environment – people are consulted and can influence decisions around energy and their natural environment and have access to their natural environment
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