SOSE Staff - Climate Justice and a ‘Just’ Transition

Climate Justice and a ‘Just’ Transition

As the dust settles from COP27 in Egypt, SOSE’s Net Zero Strategy Lead, Colin Banks and Fair Work & Equality Lead, Seonaid Mann give their thoughts from the two weeks of global negotiations on climate change, and is encouraging local businesses to come along to this week’s business breakfast on Thursday 24 November in Selkirk.

"Climate justice was at the top of the agenda at COP27, and huge progress was made in the global agreement to a new funding arrangement on what is termed ‘loss and damage’ – essentially a pooled fund for those less developed countries most affected by climate change, but which have done least to cause the problem.

Whilst Scotland is at the forefront of driving climate change ambition with World-leading legislation - we must seek to accelerate our activity through practical changes that bring down our own societal carbon emissions.

Alongside Scotland being one of the first nations to contribute to a loss and damage fund, when it comes to delivering climate justice here in Scotland - we often refer to the need for the transition to net zero to be a just one. A ‘just’ transition is one that is fair and equitable and takes into account the consequences of actions and decisions on people in general, rather than just a privileged few.

One way to view a ‘just’ transition is to not repeat mistakes from the past, where we inflicted an ‘unjust’ transition on the those employed within the coal sector. Think only of the closures of Coal Board and private sector deep and open cast mines across Scotland, England and Wales and the devastating effects this had on those directly employed in coal mining, their families, the supply chain and wider communities. This caused economic and social scars and many of these continue to be felt today.

Scotland’s ‘Just Transition to Net Zero’ is the systemic change we need to implement to ensure that our country-wide greenhouse gas emissions reach net zero by 2045, at the same time as safeguarding the economic future of our people and places.

It is no mean feat, but there are plenty of exciting economic opportunities, including here in the South of Scotland.

What can we do to support the just transition? The first step is to ensure that consideration of the impacts upon people are at the heart of each and every decision-making process.

Business and enterprise leaders need to put themselves in the ‘shoes of others’, and one of the best ways of understanding individual viewpoints is to take the time to ask and truly listen.

The organisations that have successfully made a pivot towards net zero are the ones that have conducted effective scenario planning and have engaged with their workforce or other key stakeholders. They have thought in advance (rather than as an afterthought) about what the proposed changes will mean for their workforce and take measures to mitigate adverse effects, such as providing financial support, flexibility, time and the confidence and encouragement required to upskill or retrain.

These organisations also think about the wider effects on people and communities. They engage with them and reassure them of the benefits. Many people are inherently resistant to change because of a fear of the unknown, but if they understand the need for change, as well as understanding what it means for them and how they will benefit, then they are far more likely to embrace it, support change and make the required adjustments in their own lives.

Now, more than ever, organisations are recognising the fragility of the business ecosystem.
Rising costs, increasing market volatility, availability of resources and the threat of energy scarcity on top of all the added pressures created by Brexit and the war in Ukraine have led to serious business challenges. Add to that the climate and nature emergency and we have a context that presents as something of a ‘perfect storm’.

Ensuring that fair and inclusive working practices are in place is key to a successful just transition. And we need to remember that fair and inclusive working practices should be extended beyond individual organisations and right through an entire supply chain, both at home and abroad, if we are to create a genuinely fair and just transition."

Come and hear more at our Business Breakfast

Thursday 24 November, 8:15am-10:30am
Ettrick Riverside - Selkirk

To help support this, SOSE, alongside the Institute of Directors and Living Wage Scotland are hosting a business breakfast on Thursday 24 November at Ettrick Riverside in Selkirk to explore how committing to fair work can be an opportunity, rather than a challenge.

The event, running from 8.15am to 10.30am is open to all, but, in particular, business owners, managers and HR professionals across the Scottish Borders.

Register for the event

Those attending will get the chance to network, hear practical information from representatives from each organisation as well as leading Scottish Borders business Scotmas on the positive impact of implementing Fair Working practices in their workplace.

We’ll also talk about some of the challenges which can be addressed directly by implementing fair working practices and some of the practical steps that organisations can take.

We know why we need a just transition and time is of the essence, so please get in touch with SOSE if you or your business/enterprise want support in doing so.

Useful links

• COP27 outcome 
• Scotland’s loss and damage commitment
• Scotland’s climate change legislation
• COP on biodiversity