The UK and Ireland Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) publishes today a detailed analysis on the work of the Just Transition Commission in Scotland and the importance of such policies being delivered across the UK and Ireland. (1)
The necessity of tackling climate change requires a move away from fossil fuels and towards renewables. In the view of the NFLA, the long time and huge cost required to build new nuclear facilities means they are not a practical alternative within a ‘just transition’, whilst there are extensive costs in nuclear decommissioning and radioactive waste management that will keep jobs in this sector going well into the next century.
There are lots of jobs in the fossil fuel and related sectors, and it is important, given the lessons that took place from the end of the mining industry, to transfer these jobs and skills to other sectors as carefully and as fairly as possible. A ‘Just Transition’ was included, following extensive international trade union lobbying, in the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement in reference to providing “a just transition of the workforce and the creation of decent work and quality jobs”.
The NFLA report focuses on, and very much welcomes, the work of the Scottish Just Transition Commission, which has reported to the Scottish Government. Its final report, published just before the recent Scottish Parliament elections, had four key conclusions. These included:
- Pursue an orderly, managed transition to net-zero that creates benefits and opportunities for people across Scotland. Delivery of this must be a national mission. Just transition roadmaps will give direction and confidence, driving investment that brings jobs, skills and value.
- Equip people with the skills and education they need to benefit from the transition.
- A just transition is shaped by Scotland’s citizens, not imposed on them – empowers and invigorates communities and strengthens local economies.
- Share benefits widely and ensure burdens are distributed on the basis of ability to pay. In this way a just transition refocuses on wellbeing; it uses the power of government intervention and public finance (such as the Scottish National Investment Bank and public pension funds) to drive action; it explores new funding methods for local projects; it fully explores the distributional impact of taxes; it ensures new technologies and services are delivered in a way that works for people, and improves the lives of the most vulnerable in our society.
For the NFLA, this ground-breaking report could be a blueprint for action not just in Scotland, but provide detail for the rest of the UK, Ireland and the wider European Union.
In its detailed analysis on these matters, the NFLA report concludes:
- The Scottish Government’s Just Transition Commission’s recommendations are welcome and provide detailed set challenges that transfers workers from high-carbon to low-carbon sectors. NFLA encourages the Scottish Government to implement them into core policy solutions.
- Unfortunately, there does not currently seem to be any kind of a plan to retrain workers in the oil and gas industries, or other industries likely to disappear or change radically as a result of the net zero transition. Oil workers are not hearing anything from employers on how they can retrain for work in offshore wind or other green growth sectors.
- The Scottish Government (and the other governments of the UK and Ireland) needs to learn from the failure to create a strong local manufacturing supply chain for the offshore wind industry, so that the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy is more orderly. The Commission calls for bold action to agree concrete steps that will support participation and local democracy, and investigation into the potential for increased powers and resources to be directed at community level to ensure any new arrangements support for wider participation. The Commission wants to see the benefits of the transition shared widely and burdens shared on the basis on ability to pay.
- The Irish Republic is seeing the transformation of Bord na Móna, once the largest employer in the Irish Midlands which developed peatlands for burning in peat-fired power stations. Bord na Móna is no longer harvesting peat and is now positioning itself as a climate solutions company. NFLA welcomes this highly positive development. The Irish Government has established a Just Transition Commission and a Just Transition Fund. The NFLA hopes these positive developments become strongly embedded over the decade.
- The UK Government has started some positive developments in this regard, and NFLA encourages it to embed the ‘just transition’ concept into policymaking. There is much to be learnt from the Scottish Just Transition Commission and NFLA call on English, Welsh and Northern Irish versions of it from the UK, Welsh and Northern Ireland Governments. Climate change is necessitating unprecedented changes in the energy and other sectors of our economies. Without environmental justice and equity being a central part of the transition to ‘net zero’, large parts of each nation will potentially see local economies devastated and many left unemployed with difficult challenges to transfer to the new jobs on offer. A ‘Just Transition’ is essential across all parts of the UK and Ireland.
The NFLA will share this report with central government and pass it through to climate change officers and lead elected members on the climate emergency, to encourage a just transition at the national and at the local level. Fair environmental and societal policies are needed if all communities are going to benefit from a ‘net zero’ economy that is both mitigating the worst effects of climate change and adapting to the issues it creates.
NFLA Scotland Convener Councillor Feargal Dalton said:
“I recommend this important report is read by all those involved in ensuring that the response to the climate emergency is positively responded to in a fair and just manner. We do not want to see the poor response that took place in the closure of coal mines being replicated in the oil and gas sector. If a ‘just transition’ can be achieved, our economies will be fairer, our most vulnerable communities protected, and the worst impacts of climate change lessened. I welcome the Scottish Government accepting the Just Transition Commission report, and I call for them now to implement it fully into government policy.”
NFLA English Forum Chair Councillor David Blackburn added:
“The excellent work of the Scottish Just Transition Commission needs not just to be considered by the Scottish Government, but also by the UK, Welsh and Northern Ireland Governments. It is a blueprint for the type of positive and fair action that will not just mitigate climate change but bring thousands of new high-quality low carbon jobs. Such jobs are essential to many communities.”
NFLA All Ireland Sustainable Energy Forum Co-Chair Councillor David Healy added:
“I welcome the recent moves from the Irish Government to put some depth to its own just transition plans, and the transition of Bord na Móna shows the real benefits to such policies. I think the Government can learn much from the Scottish Government’s Just Transition Commission and should consider it carefully. Ireland has been for far too long dependent on fossil fuels, but in moving to renewables it needs to bring communities with it. If it does, it will not just reduce the impact of climate change but it will enhance the benefits of good employment. I commend councillors to read this report as well.”
Ends – for more information please contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary, on 07771 930196.
Notes to Editors: