The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) welcomes the announcement by the Scottish Government of the development of a ‘Just Transition Commission’ to advise it on how Scotland can achieve a carbon-neutral economy. (1) NFLA believes such bodies could be useful as a model for not just democratising the energy economy, but could be considered as best practice in the parallel area of defence diversification, ensuring skilled workers could be transferred to other important areas of the economy.
The Just Transition Commission is a commitment under the Scottish Government’s ‘Programme for Government’. Its role will be to consider how to maximise the opportunities that arise out of decarbonisation, in terms of fair work and tackling inequalities, while delivering a sustainable and inclusive labour market.
Jim Skea, Professor of Sustainable Energy at Imperial College London’s Centre for Environmental Policy, and a member of the Bureau of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the UK Government’s Committee on Climate Change, has agreed to chair the Commission.
The idea of a ‘just transition’ was a fundamental part of the Paris Climate Change Agreement in seeking to ensure that moves away from fossil fuels to more low carbon technologies are done equitably and ensure workers can be retrained and transferred into such sectors of work.
As the Scottish Government note, the international principles of just transition, developed and promoted across the trade union movement, can be summarised as:
- Plan for, and invest in, a transition to environmentally and socially sustainable jobs, sectors and economies.
- Such moves should leave no one behind.
- Actively consider employment issues when developing climate policies.
- Design and deliver low carbon infrastructure with the aim of creating decent, high value work.
NFLA advocate such policies could also be developed by the Scottish, Welsh and UK Government in the defence sector, to assist it in transferring jobs, particularly with the Trident nuclear programme, into national defence and the civil low carbon sector. The potential creation of a Shadow Defence Diversification Agency, developed potentially with cross-party support, could be something that the new Just Transition Commission, the Scottish, Welsh and UK Governments, and political parties should also actively consider.
To provide some guidance on this, NFLA advocate a recent report by the Nuclear Education Trust that has concluded that it is possible to disarm the Trident nuclear weapons system without major job losses, based on evidence from defence diversification projects around the world.
The report, ‘Defence Diversification: International Learning for Trident Jobs’, recommends that defence diversification can succeed if the following lessons are learned:
- Workers and communities must take the lead in making decisions for diversification, but a broad partnership involving all stakeholders is necessary for success.
- Political support for diversification must come from national, regional and local levels.
- Action must be taken at early stages to proactively assist communities in diversification, rather than reacting to a crisis.
- Funding must be available not just for putting a plan into action but for organising, analysis of the situation, planning and then implementation.
- Existing organisations, relationships and expertise must be identified and taken advantage of and efforts should be made to ease the transition into more competitive civil markets. Joint ventures and network learning should be encouraged.
NFLA will seek to cooperate in the development of the Just Transition Commission. It also calls for government to consider similar moves for defence diversification to ensure there is a similar ‘just transition’ so the economy could move from reducing the UK’s role as a major arms and nuclear weapons producer into a global leader in low carbon technology.
NFLA Scotland Vice-Convener, Councillor Audrey Doig said:
“I congratulate the Scottish Government for creating a Just Transition Commission and I hope it can provide an important advisory role to assist our workforce in completing the move from high carbon to low carbon producing jobs. Such a model is also important in providing justice, equity, cohesion and fairness whilst delivering a higher wage economy. The defence sector also needs a process of just transition as well and engagement within its workforce to translate jobs into other high skilled parts of the economy, particularly low carbon generation. I hope the Scottish Government can also lead the way in this area, and I encourage the UK and Welsh Governments to consider developing similar models for the civil and defence sectors. Just transition is clearly a major way forward to a fairer and more productive economy.”
Ends – for more information please contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary, on 00 44 (0)161 234 3244.
Notes for editors:
(1) Scottish Government media release, 14th September 2018
(2) Nuclear Education Trust, Defence Diversification: International Learning for Trident Jobs’, June 2018