Just Transition Commission call for evidence: analysis report

Analysis of the responses to the Just Transition Commission's call for evidence.

3.5 Support for specific groups

3.5.1 Question five asked for views about the groups affected by transition:

Are there specific groups or communities that may be, or feel that they may be, adversely affected by a transition to a net-zero carbon economy? What steps can be taken to address their concerns?

3.5.2 Respondents' views on the groups that may be adversely affected typically fell into one of six categories: those working directly or indirectly in jobs linked to fossil fuels or carbon intensive industries; lower income households; vulnerable groups including people with protected characteristics; farmers and landowners; car users; and people living in rural or remote rural areas.

3.5.3 In this chapter we summarise the comments about each group, key concerns and any solutions suggested by respondents.

Fossil fuel production or carbon intensive industries

3.5.4 Employees dependent on fossil fuel sectors were most commonly highlighted as facing adverse impacts from a transition to net-zero. This includes those working directly in oil, gas or petrochemical production and extends to those in carbon intensive industries such as heavy industry, construction, housing and haulage.

3.5.5 Respondents suggested that opportunities in green industries could mitigate loss of employment. Some called for a structured transition plan for each sector of the workforce that may be impacted by the move to a net-zero economy, often suggesting that this should be developed in consultation with employees or union representatives. A small number highlighted workforce planning models for the Commission to consider, including Sea Change, Climate Emergency, Jobs and Managing the Phase-Out of UK Oil and Gas Extraction by Friends of the Earth[10] and the Lucas Plan.[11]

3.5.6 It was highlighted that those currently in jobs directly or indirectly tied to fossil fuels would need specific financial assistance and support to acquire the skills to work in clean energy or carbon neutral industrial processes. Examples of supports included, job guarantees, income protection, apprenticeships, training incentives and investment in the growth of sectors and technologies that are not fossil fuel dependent, to encourage job growth.

3.5.7 Some respondents reflected more broadly on impacts for the local and regional supply chain around oil and gas industries, and the potential for wider disruption should these sectors decline. Examples of local economies or communities which respondents felt could experience adverse impacts included Caithness and North Sutherland, Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, Grangemouth, Cowdenbeath and Orkney and Shetland. Often, there were references to the enduring legacy of unemployment and social inequality associated with the demise of coal-mining industries and respondents urged the Commission to reflect on lessons learned from these experiences of unsuccessful economic restructuring.

One obvious group who will be affected significantly by the move to net-zero are those who work in the fossil fuel sector. This will therefore affect the Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire communities, but not exclusively so. One has only to look at the Scottish communities affected by the energy transition associated with the decline of coal - such as Fife, Ayrshire, and Lanarkshire - to see how societal impacts can last for decades.

A further group which may have to sustain a greater share of the burden of energy transition are those who live in the vicinity of new infrastructure. As in France with nuclear power stations, such local interests can be compensated financially for that burden. Community benefit is also now a standard feature of Scottish wind farms. Such approaches are societally just and are to be encouraged.


There are still areas where a large part of the population work in fossil fuel industries who will be worried about the impact of the transition. We need to avoid the mistakes that were previously made in de-industrialisation in places like Glasgow. These types of industries should be encouraged to begin transitioning now and encourage retraining and support packages for their staff to transition.


Lower income households

3.5.8 Lower income households were mentioned second most frequently in comments about groups which may experience adverse impacts from the transition to a net-zero economy. In some cases, this concern was linked to a view that people living in poverty face strict financial parameters which leave no room for manoeuvre in a period of change. For example, respondents anticipated that a transition would entail additional costs to upgrade heating systems, make homes more energy efficient or to embed new technology. Some suggested that the general cost of living may increase to reflect higher costs associated with changes in food production, transport systems and energy provision.

3.5.9 Some respondents said that carbon intensive industries are a significant provider of low paid employment. They argued that there will be a double burden for lower income households who face higher costs and potential unemployment as a result of job losses across these sectors.

3.5.10 To address these concerns, respondents called for close consideration of impacts and mitigating actions, focussed specifically on people with low levels of income. A small number urged the Commission to consider support mechanisms for lower income households, for example through subsidising any living costs associated with achieving the Scottish Government's goal to achieve net-zero. Respondents also advocated for support to assist a workforce transition for anyone employed in energy or carbon intensive sectors.

3.5.11 Community engagement activities and public information or awareness campaigns were also proposed as ways to support lower income households through the transition. One respondent highlighted the range of challenges that families living in poverty face, which are likely to take precedence over any focus on achieving net-zero. They observed that these households should not be alienated or excluded because of their level of engagement with the transition, suggesting engagement campaigns should reflect the context and lived experience of people's circumstances.

3.5.12 Some respondents suggested that without a specific focus on lower income households, existing inequalities could be exacerbated. In this vein, a few advocated for a human rights-based approach to just transition, highlighting principles of non-discrimination, participation and accountability as particularly important. A small number pointed out that lower income households will be most adversely affected if nothing is done to tackle climate change.

Any group or community who is currently deprived or undervalued in some way, particularly households in SIMD lower categories and who therefore do not have the luxury of choice of healthier and more ethical, sustainable foods and services as they cost more. Eradicate so-called 'food deserts' in deprived areas, where there is very limited access to healthy food, and instead ensure it is more readily available and less expensive than unhealthy fast foods.

Climate Action Strathearn

Cars and public transport

3.5.13 Third most frequently mentioned in comments about adverse impacts was challenges for car owners and for public transport. Respondents expressed concerns that car owners would feel attacked and face additional costs, including further taxes on fuels or penalties for high emission vehicles. A small number anticipated restrictions on car users such as charges for driving in specific zones.

3.5.14 Many suggested that a successful transition would entail a switch to electric vehicles. In this vein, a few respondents anticipated adverse impacts for the car industry and for anyone working in this sector.

3.5.15 Many respondents called for recognition that people in rural areas depend on cars to access the employment and services they need. Several said that public transport is expensive and that the existing network of public and community transport is insufficient to meet current and future demand.

3.5.16 Respondents put forward a range of solutions, including support for car manufacturers to produce electric vehicles. Some suggested that improvements in broadband would help reduce the need for business travel, contributing to an overall decrease in private car use. There were repeated calls for an expansion of Scotland's rail and bus networks and some suggested that public transport should be further subsidised or free at the point of use.

Vulnerable groups

3.5.17 Several respondents highlighted adverse impacts for groups with specific characteristics including people affected by homelessness, people with disabilities, BAME communities, women, people who are digitally excluded and older people. Many referenced existing inequalities experienced by these groups, such as poverty, exclusion, underrepresentation in decision making structures or poverty, suggesting these challenges could be exacerbated by the net-zero transition.

3.5.18 Some respondents reflected that the unequal social impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic foreshadow challenges that may arise during the transition to net-zero. These include vulnerabilities to any changes in the availability or cost of public transport for those who rely on it, particularly people who may be isolated, ill or living in poverty.

3.5.19 Mitigating actions identified by respondents included better design of social welfare and support systems including education, housing, health and transport. Again, there were calls for equality impact assessments when developing policies to combat climate change, and for consultation with communities with protected specific characteristics.

Social justice and climate justice are interlinked and the poor and vulnerable in our communities, and worldwide, will suffer most from the effects of climate change. Taxation, housing, transport, employment and food provision need to be planned to take account of health and social inequalities.


Farmers and landowners

3.5.20 Significant changes in land use were anticipated as part of a transition to net-zero, including a shift in the focus of agricultural production from livestock to crops. Some suggested that the agriculture sector is not prepared for the scale of change required and that some may perceive the transition as a threat to their culture and livelihood.

3.5.21 A small number said agriculture's contribution to emissions was overestimated. Some expressed fears that farmers will be encouraged or forced to convert agricultural land into forests, arguing this will hamper biodiversity.

3.5.22 Respondents' suggested solutions to these issues included research, education and training, and financial support such as fair pricing schemes, a guaranteed basic income, and subsidies and grants to, for example, encourage plant rather than livestock-based agriculture or a change in land use to recreation, nature conservation or rewilding. A few felt that farmers would need tailored support to assist them to adopt new methods, and that change in the sector could be supported by information campaigns promoting case studies and details about successful new models and approaches. Many of these comments called for close engagement and consultation with agricultural communities.

3.5.23 Several respondents advocated for investment in small scale, local initiatives including crofts and community growing initiatives. There were repeat comments about the need for varied land use, including repurposing of land for recreation, conservation, or rewilding.

3.5.24 A few respondents called for a specific plan which would include, for example, explicit targets and milestones for agriculture and land use so that the scale of change is understood. They suggested such a plan would need to communicate that the transition is essential for the common good and that change can be an opportunity.

Agricultural communities are already under siege on number of fronts - their first thought is that anything to do with climate change is bad for them, and this requires careful policy shifts as well as robust engagement if the sector is going to be able to contribute to net-zero ambition.

The Highland Council

Rural or remote rural areas

3.5.25 Adverse impacts for people in rural or remote rural areas were frequently mentioned. These comments often highlighted the importance of car ownership in rural communities for access to employment and essential services. Some respondents expressed a concern that the interests of people in urban areas dominate decision making, urging the Commission not to forget people in rural communities.

3.5.26 Many comments alluded to poor infrastructure in remote areas, noting this has the potential to exacerbate inequalities during the transition. Examples included more expensive energy costs and slower broadband, which may limit any adjustments that are dependent on new technologies; for example, home based working. Many of the points raised about adverse impacts for households with low levels of income were mentioned in the context of those living in remote communities, with respondents noting high costs of living for people in rural areas.

3.5.27 A few respondents anticipated that traditional forms of rural employment such as deer stalking and grouse shooting will reduce during the transition. They highlighted that workers in these sectors may see the transition as a threat to their culture and livelihood.

3.5.28 Linked to the discussion on infrastructure and energy supply, a small number described the use of open fires, wood burning stoves and biomass boilers as low-cost heating in rural communities. They expressed a concern that these options will be removed in the future, forcing households into fuel poverty.

3.5.29 Suggested solutions to these challenges included a specific strategy to support rural communities through the transition. Respondents stated that the strategy would need to give consideration to economic growth, energy, infrastructure, transport, employment, healthcare and access to essential services. There were calls for active engagement and consultation with people in rural areas about the process of change and about how communities will be supported through it. One respondent suggested that as community benefit is now a standard feature of Scottish windfarms, this form of financial compensation should be encouraged for those in the vicinity of all new green energy infrastructure.

3.5.30 A small number of respondents highlighted that people in rural or remote rural areas will be most adversely affected if nothing is done to tackle climate change.

Tourism and the aviation industry

3.5.31 Another theme in responses about adverse impacts concerned challenges for the tourism and aviation industries. Respondents anticipate a decline in short-haul flights, affecting all aspects of the aviation sector. Fewer international visitors would impact on Scotland's sizeable tourism market.

3.5.32 Suggested solutions to this included specific training to support people working in these industries to shift to new sectors and exploring provision of less carbon-intensive transport and tourism services. One respondent suggested that small tourist businesses such as hotels should be protected, as they can play an important role in local communities.

No adverse impacts

3.5.33 A small number of respondents saw no adverse impacts for any particular group, only a net gain for the country. These comments mentioned the creation of many new jobs in a green economy and the positive implications for social justice, in Scotland and on a global scale, should a just transition be achieved.

Adverse impacts without a successful transition

3.5.34 Adverse impact arising from no transition was also highlighted by some respondents. In these comments, respondents observed that all of society will be affected if climate change is not addressed, but that the most vulnerable will feel the worst effects. Impacts for people in developing economies whose farmland or forests are used to produce crops or livestock for global markets were also described. A small number highlighted the negative impacts of climate change on Scotland's historic buildings.

3.5.35 To address this, respondents advocated for engagement with the public on the need for transition and for clear communication about the steps Scotland must take to achieve a net-zero economy.



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