Just Transition Commission: advice on a green recovery

Report prepared by the Just Transition Commission, providing advice to the Scottish Government on ensuring a just green recovery.


2.1 The Commission was established to make recommendations to Scottish Ministers on how we can transition to a net-zero economy by 2045 in a way which:

  • maximises the economic and social opportunities that the move to a net-zero economy by 2045 offers
  • builds on Scotland’s existing strengths and assets
  • understands and mitigates risks that could arise in relation to regional cohesion, equalities, poverty (including fuel poverty), and a sustainable and inclusive labour market

2.2 We published our interim report in February, laying out our emerging thinking and initial recommendations for government. Since then the pandemic has swept across the world, disrupting our lives and extracting a devastating toll on health and our wider society while demonstrating the impact that sudden and unplanned transitions can have.

2.3 This report has come about as a result of a request from the Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, asking us for advice on a green recovery from the pandemic. We have been asked specifically to consider the green recovery through a just transition lens, building on the work of other groups such as the Committee on Climate Change. The Government set out the stages for its economic response to the pandemic in April: Response, Reset, Restart, and Recover.[1] It is the final stage of this plan that we are focussed on in this report.

2.4 While the pandemic has had a profound impact on our economy and the way we live our lives, it has also shone a cruel light on many of the structural inequalities that exist in our society. The public sector has been forced to intervene in the economy and in people’s lives in a way some would have previously thought impossible.

2.5 On the climate change front, we have seen the understandable delay to both the Scottish Government publication of the updated Climate Change Plan and to COP26. While these decisions were inevitable in light of the unprecedented circumstances, we must be careful not to lose sight of the urgent need to tackle the climate challenge. The most recent statistics show Scotland’s greenhouse gas emissions rose in 2018, a trend that desperately needs reversing and at pace. Now is the time for renewed commitment to reset our pathway to net-zero, while building a fairer and more resilient economy.

2.6 Many recent reports have called for a green recovery. In particular, we draw attention to the work of the Advisory Group on Economic Recovery (AGER) and the Climate Emergency Response Group (CERG). We have also gained insight from a wide range of sectors and there is a clear consensus on the importance of an investment-led recovery and the need to ensure the economic recovery is consistent with Scotland’s climate ambitions.

2.7 We have tried to bring another perspective to the existing commentary on green recovery, emphasising equity and the imperative of delivering a just transition to net-zero. In setting out our recommendations for government we have used three criteria to assess proposals:

1. Do they set Scotland on a pathway to net-zero?

2. Do they ensure the benefits of climate change action are shared widely, while the costs do not unfairly burden those least able to pay, or whose livelihoods are directly or indirectly at risk?

Will they contribute to a just and fair economic recovery for Scotland once the immediate emergency, created by COVID-19, has subsided?

2.8 We have also considered proposals from the perspective of the three main themes we identified in our interim report: planning ahead, broad engagement, and bringing equity to the heart of climate change policies.

2.9 We have identified four Hot Spot areas we believe merit particular and urgent attention from government and have developed a set of focussed recommendations that will help embed a just transition to net-zero as part of the green recovery. There is no doubt that our recovery from the harm caused by the pandemic is a monumental challenge for government, and we cannot shy away from that. But we would return to the message of our interim report – bold, decisive action from government can help deliver a fair and just transition to net-zero in Scotland.

2.10 The case for a just and green recovery is clear. We need to be focusing on how to embed fairness and ensure the people who need support most feel the benefits as we recover from the pandemic. We hope this report is helpful to government in this regard.


Email: justtransitioncommission@gov.scot

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