Just Transition Commission - letter to Minister for Just Transition, Employment and Fair Work: 12 December 2022

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

12 December 2022

Dear Mr Lochhead,

Update from Chair, Just Transition Commission

I am writing following the meeting of the Just Transition Commission held on 9 December 2022. We had formed the expectation that we would be consulted at that meeting on a draft of the outline Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan. That expectation was formed following our meeting with you during our visit to and meeting on the Isle of Lewis in October, followed up by the letter I wrote to you on the 2 of November 2022.

The Commission wants to acknowledge the high-level briefing we received from officials on the draft currently under development. However, the view of the Commission is that this high-level briefing does not constitute consultation on the plan, and we would not expect other parties to gain the impression we had been consulted. 

Commissioners devote time to the Commission because of its specific mandate and the value it adds by bringing together stakeholders from a multitude of perspectives to reach consensus on the challenge of a fair and just transition to net zero. Unless this is recognised through early engagement and consultation, members may form the view that direct responses to public consultation through their own organisations are the most effective way to inform policy, thereby losing the Commission’s consensus-building role.

Based on the briefing we received, we are also deeply concerned about the lack of evidence of adequate policy actions to deliver a just transition for the Energy sector, particularly given the urgent need to shift gear in the rest of the 2020s. Last week, the Committee on Climate Change raised in forceful terms the issue of the credibility of climate policy in Scotland to deliver against the Scottish Government’s stated aims, and the need for a shift in the pace, urgency and scale of policy delivery to achieve critical emissions reductions during this decade in particular. In that light, we would underscore the third of the five ‘guiding principles’ we set out in our initial report in July:

Credibility - Plans and targets must be deliverable and supported by adequate funding. Investment now will avoid opportunities going elsewhere. As pointed out by the UK's Committee on Climate Change, over-ambitious targets, or plans that dodge tough questions rather than confronting them, risk a disorderly, and hence unjust, transition.

Our view is that the elements of the transition to net zero that bear on justice and fairness are even more important to advance at this time of economic crisis and widening inequalities. And it will be impossible to achieve a just transition to net zero, if there is no credible plan to achieve net zero itself. Equally, achieving fairness across a range of economic issues will ultimately enable the broad-based support essential for the achievement of net zero.

Based on personal experience, Scotland’s inclusive approach to just transition, and the policymaking architecture, which includes independent advice and scrutiny from the Commission, is internationally recognised. Scotland’s approach was recognised at numerous events during COP27 including the dialogue on the first Paris Agreement Global Stocktake and the High-Level Ministerial on pre-2030 Ambition. Individually and collectively, we are frequently asked to discuss Scotland’s approach to just transition both within, and external to, the groups that we represent. This reflects the importance that business, unions, NGOs, community groups and academia place on monitoring Scotland’s progress on just transition. Maintaining that recognition on the global stage depends on how effectively we transition from aspiration to action.

We hope the Scottish Government will make best use of the Commission via in-depth and early-stage consultation on the development and drafting of sectoral and regional Just Transition Plans. Safeguarding continued participation from representatives of business, Unions, NGOs, community groups and academia depends on our members seeing the fulfilment of the remit given to the Commission by Scottish Ministers to provide independent scrutiny and advice.

The Commission’s Secretariat has corresponded with your officials over recent weeks to agree the text of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Commission and the Scottish Government. This presents a helpful opportunity for us to formalise arrangements and clarify expectations regarding consultation and information-sharing. I hope we can agree and publish a signed Memorandum of Understanding within the next few weeks. In addition, to support the Scottish Government, achieve a meaningful Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan that meets the expectations of its stakeholders, the Commission will share a further statement in the New Year with advice regarding key elements of Just Transition Plans, including on Energy.

We wish to stress again our shared commitment to advancing the achievement of just transition outcomes that improve the lives of people across Scotland through the scrutiny and advice function set out in the Just Transition Commission’s remit.

Professor Jim Skea

Chair, Just Transition Commission

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