A look to the future
This report comes at a pivotal point. We are slowly looking to emerge from the the pandemic. We also look ahead to imminent Scottish Parliament elections and then COP26 later in the year, in Glasgow. Ending our contribution to climate change in a just and fair manner is a grand challenge of our time and can help define what kind of nation we want to be.
The eyes of the world will be on Scotland and COP26 will be a great opportunity to share our approach on just transition, while learning from others. But there is also a need to look beyond COP26, and put in place a framework to ensure the long term delivery of our ambitions.
As the life of this Commission draws to a close, we have considered the requirements needed to ensure just transition stays as a key organising principle for climate policymaking in Scotland, and becomes embedded across Government strategy.
We have focused our thinking on the functions and enablers that might be needed to continue momentum and drive progress. Our view is that the required functions fall into three areas: scrutiny, advice and awareness raising / campaigning. We believe that the following three actions will put in place clear lines of accountability for delivery, maintain focus behind this agenda, and help build momentum across society towards the delivery of this national ambition.
1. The next Scottish Government should make the Deputy First Minister, or at a minimum, a Cabinet Secretary responsible for a just transition to net-zero.
Meeting our legislative targets on climate change is a long-term mission, requiring clarity of focus and vision. Achieving this will only be possible with decisive action across Ministerial portfolios and through a national endeavour: action by the entire public sector, the private sector, civic society and also individuals. But clear lines of accountability are needed within Government, establishing responsibility for coordinating action, delivering on targets and driving this agenda forward.
We recommend the next Scottish Government identifies a senior member of the Cabinet to have a specific responsibility for a just transition to net-zero within their portfolio. One of their tasks must be to ensure that realising the opportunities of delivering a just transition is reflected in Government policy, including any update of overarching economic strategy (as outlined in recommendation 24). To be effective, this position would need to have the purview to work across government activity, provide strategic direction to policymaking and be empowered to drive delivery. They would be answerable for progress on not only emission reduction targets, but also demonstrating and maintaining progress towards legislative commitments made in relation to just transition.
2. Scottish Government must establish capacity for independent scrutiny and advice on the just transition provisions in our Climate Change legislation.
The next statutory Climate Change Plan is due to be published in 2023. This will be the first Plan that, by law, must contain assessment of the impact of emission reduction policies on workers and communities, and set out actions to manage these impacts.
For this to be meaningful, we recommend a robust measurement framework be developed that allows progress to be tracked. While this will be subject to development work over the coming years, we envisage such a framework would contain some of the following:
- Employment: including head count and FTE by different industries (carbon intensive and low-carbon), real income from employment by industry, wider measures of Fair Work, skills metrics, carbon intensity of employment. All developed to track shifts across an evolving industry landscape and with a capacity to see regional differences.
- Household: including real income for different income groups and geographical areas, distributional measures of income, and poverty indicators (absolute, energy etc.)
- Programme level: where actions in the next Climate Change Plan are directly relevant to just transition, appropriate indicators should be developed at programme level to demonstrate effectiveness.
The Scottish Government should also explore the provision of independent advice and scrutiny on the just transition aspects of the Climate Change Plan. This could serve a similar function to that currently provided by the Climate Change Committee, which provides annual progress reports on emission reductions to the Scottish Parliament.
3. The Scottish Government should launch a national call for action at COP26, that brings business, trade unions, and civic society together in a commitment to support just transition principles in Scotland.
We have made the point that delivering on the ambition contained in this report is a national endeavour, involving all aspects of society. The Scottish Government leads, but everyone must take action. Our interim report noted the opportunity presented by COP26 being held in Glasgow. There will be a unique chance to share experience and learn from others. We should also use the opportunity to inject fresh impetus and energy from across society towards delivering on a just transition to a better Scotland.
To do this, we recommend the Scottish Government develops a national call to action, to be launched at COP26. This should declare a common national vision and shared just transition principles to act as a catalyst for climate action with social impact. Businesses, trade unions, and civic society organisations would be invited to sign up and demonstrate their commitment to this national mission.
Glasgow hosting COP26 presents an enormously powerful, and precious, window of opportunity. A national call to action would help our nation appreciate Scotland's ambition in the international context, and would bring together disparate parties towards a shared collective goal of making Scotland a greener and fairer country.