Making the Future - second Just Transition Commission: initial report

The second Just Transition Commission convened in early 2022 with a remit to provide scrutiny and advice on the Scottish Government’s sectoral and regional just transition plans. This initial report sets out strategic priorities to ensure the decarbonisation of Scotland's economy is delivered fairly

Introduction and overview

Scotland's renewed Just Transition Commission (JTC) will sit for the duration of this Scottish Parliament. As with the first JTC, it operates independently, drawing on expertise and experience from leading figures in industry, business, trade unions, academia, and environmental and community groups. It works alongside bodies with related remits such as the Fair Work Convention and Poverty and Inequality Commission. The overall mission remains the same – a fair transition to net zero emissions in Scotland, undertaken in partnership with those impacted by the transition.

The Scottish Government accepted and committed to act on all of the recommendations made by the first JTC, including the establishment of a Ministerial Just Transition post. The Scottish Government's response to the first JTC's report published in March 2021 showed admirable ambition. This ambition now needs to be matched with action from Government, and across society, that materially enhances the livelihoods and well-being of people across Scotland as we decarbonise rapidly and at scale.

The new Commission has been tasked with providing scrutiny and advice on Scottish Government-led Just Transition Plans, advising on the most suitable approaches to monitoring and evaluation and engaging with those most likely to be impacted by the transition. We need to focus on the practicalities of delivering a just transition, identifying strategic opportunities, risks and roadblocks, and the actions required to address these.

The renewed Commission has met five times since January 2022, and this is our first report. Annual reports will follow from 2023 onwards. This report reflects recent progress in embedding the principle of a just transition into the reality of policy planning and delivery. Just transition as a framing policy concept now enjoys wide-ranging support in Scotland, and our approach has attracted considerable interest among international partners.

The Scottish Government's Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan (ESJTP) will be published later this year. This will be followed by other sectoral Just Transition Plans in 2023, which will feed into the next Climate Change Plan, expected in draft form by late 2023. This report therefore comes at a critical moment, with the capacity to influence policy developments that will shape decisively the path we in Scotland take towards a net zero economy.

To that end, this Initial report sets out the priorities which, in the view of the Commission, are of primary importance in delivering a just transition for Scotland. It is intended as a resource, first and foremost for policymakers, but also for industry, businesses, workers, communities, researchers and practitioners – to everyone taking an active part in helping shape a just transition.

A crucial aspect of the JTC's new remit calls for advice on how best to monitor and evaluate Scotland's progress towards a just transition. The Scottish Government's Just Transition Outcomes offer a starting point for the development, now underway, of a robust set of key performance indicators, based on in-depth quantitative and qualitative analysis. Progress should be assessed in an accurate and timely manner, enabling success by locating areas of risk and helping to prevent unjust outcomes. This report establishes some important principles for effective monitoring and evaluation to support a just transition. More detailed advice on this topic will follow in our annual reports.

Guiding principles

In setting out priorities, Commissioners were guided by five principles:

  • Urgency – The cost-of-living emergency means that ensuring fairness in the delivery of decarbonisation is more urgent than ever. The current economic and social situation highlights the lack of resilience in our system. The need to create a new infrastructure to support our energy transition and delivery of our net zero goals is a huge opportunity for Scotland. If we create policy to achieve high economic, climate and social returns, driving investment in industry, innovation, skills creation and regional development, we can build a clean, value-generating economy for the future. But we need to deliver at pace. The Commission is looking for early indicators of serious ambition to show that transformational change will be achieved.
  • Clarity – Government must be clear and up-front about its strategic decisions on just transition delivery, including investment and regulation. Clarity will catalyse effective action and benefit industry, business, workers and impacted communities.
  • 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.
  • Co-ordination – Sectoral and regional planning need to be joined-up, with annual targets, delivery and investment plans and clear shared strategic objectives, including the Scottish Government's Just Transition Outcomes.
  • Justice – Scotland's decarbonisation transition is already underway, in the context of widening inequalities post-pandemic and a growing cost-of-living emergency. Government policy needs to redress these inequalities, not widen them.

Key messages

The body of the report sets out what we see as priorities, both of a cross-cutting nature and for individual sectors. From these we distil a set of key, high-level messages:

  • Close the investment gap – The success of a just transition depends critically on delivering high quality investment of at least two per cent of GDP to create highly skilled, secure, well-paid jobs, tackle inequality, and to build an innovative industrial base and more resilient social and physical infrastructure. These are essential if we want to build a net zero economy ready for a climate-challenged world. While we recognise the constraints under which the Scottish Government operates, increased investment will ultimately stabilise the public finances in the long term and build a nation fit for the 21st century. It will be an unjust transition if it is not an investment-led recovery. Where possible, planned actions associated with 2030 and 2045 timescales should be brought forward.
  • Establish industrial planning for the economy of the future - The challenges of large-scale decarbonisation, the cost-of-living emergency and the climate emergency demand a whole system transformation which requires a new approach to industrial planning. This means moving from far-off targets to tangible, annual milestones, to lock in progress and set the direction for public and private stakeholders. This goes beyond a narrow focus on "green jobs". Serious workforce planning is needed to support workers, communities, industry and business through the transition and to create the diversified economy Scotland needs to thrive.
  • Deliver a better deal for workers – Job creation alone will not safeguard a just transition, and plans must be geared to delivering meaningful, well paid and secure employment at scale, recognising that how we work and where we work will also change through the transition. Significant support is needed now for the most marginalised groups, addressing both immediate needs and longer-term challenges. But however carefully planned the transition, we must anticipate negative shocks. Meaningful protection from these impacts demands a major renewal of Scotland's approach to social infrastructure to enhance resilience and adapt to a climate-changed world.
  • Tackle inequalities at every level – Just transition considerations must be one of the foundations of decarbonisation policy at every scale. Spending on decarbonisation should be rigorously assessed to ensure maximum positive social and economic impact and a fair distribution of benefits. This should also mean considerations of new, progressive revenue streams to rebalance economic inequities. Policy development should prioritise engagement with the most marginalised groups. Beyond our borders, we are well-placed to enhance and accelerate international progress towards a just transition by building on Scotland's co-operation between states, cities and related climate initiatives. This must include preventing negative 'spillover effects' of domestic decarbonisation, whether in the form of offshored carbon emissions or economic and social harms.
  • Measure progress to secure implementation – The Scottish Government must develop and rapidly deploy a robust monitoring and evaluation framework for assessing progress on Just Transition Outcomes. It should target clear deliverables and annual milestones through to 2045 to drive delivery. And it should include early identification of opportunities, as well as risks and roadblocks, to effective delivery. This framework should be determined by engagement with hard-to-reach groups likely to be significantly impacted, and other key stakeholders. It will necessarily be adapted and refined over time. Establishing an initial framework early is critical.

While the Commission intends this report to stand as a reference point for the work ahead, it is by no means our final word on any of the issues addressed. It does not represent an exhaustive analysis of the critical questions at hand. There are a great many matters of direct concern to the Commission which will require careful information-gathering, engagement and deliberation before we make robust recommendations.

Structure of the report

The report first focuses on those economic sectors which are due to be addressed by Just Transition Plans from the Scottish Government over the next 12-18 months.

These are:

  • Energy
  • Buildings and construction
  • Transport
  • Land use and agriculture

We then turn attention to a set of cross-cutting topics:

  • Finance
  • International
  • Social infrastructure

After which we focus on specific responsibilities of the Just Transition Commission:

  • Engagement, participation and equalities
  • Monitoring and evaluation
  • Sectoral planning
  • Energy



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