Background: Action on climate change has been a key priority for UNISON for many years. The need for policy responses at sufficient transformational scale is increasingly urgent, as shown in the stark climate scientists’ conclusions in the March 2023 IPCC Synthesis Report – dubbed a final warning to/survival guide for humanity.
Getting energy and just transition planning, policy and delivery right is not only much needed and long awaited, but essential to ensuring a just and green recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, leaving no one behind. We need an economy that won’t destroy the planet. The consultation comes at a time when it is clear the energy system has to change dramatically. It is widely agreed to be immoral that energy companies once again enjoy record profits, yet we have cost of living and energy costs crises leaving millions struggling financially, hard on the heels of the pandemic.
A just transition is vital to climate action. It aims to ensure the costs and rewards of transition are shared fairly, with employment levels and job quality protected and enhanced. This helps ensure popular support by bringing into account socio-economic benefits and the needs of workers and communities. We are proud to have campaigned for just transition policies in Scotland’s climate legislation and for a Just Transition Commission (JTC). We have worked on just transition and climate justice with the STUC, COP26 Coalition, the TUC, Public Services International and the international trade union movement at recent United Nations climate talks, including COP26 in Glasgow and COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh. The International Trade Union Confederation said last month to the G20 Leaders, there must be restructuring of international financial institutions “to serve a just transition to carbon neutrality, sustainable development and investment in the care economy and public services”. The Labour 20 Statement pointed out: “Climate scientists have issued a dire warning about an impending global catastrophe…Chronic underinvestment in the real economy and corporate price gauging have created a cost of living crisis, with workers bearing a disproportionate share of the burden.”
At the April 2023 STUC Congress, our Convener, Lilian Macer, spoke in favour of a wide-ranging motion calling for democratic public ownership and an integrated industrial strategy to tackle climate change and the energy crisis. She said devastating climate impacts already happening are interlinked with the cost of living and energy crisis, stating: “The future has to be renewables – a green energy revolution. But we won’t win the just energy transition that is urgently necessary if it’s left to the private sector. That would continue with ordinary people paying the price for crises not of their making while the big energy companies and the world’s top 1% keep raking in the dosh as the planet burns.”
UNISON wants the Scottish Government to understand that people have had enough of being ripped off by profiteering oil and gas companies; they are fed up with being promised green jobs that aren’t delivered; fed up of lack of support for home energy efficiency, especially for those on low incomes and renting; angry at being told to cut car use, when bus and rail services are slashed and fares rise. They are furious when offered well below inflation pay ‘rises’. They want joined up policies that work for people and planet. Trade union members are standing up and fighting, determined not to be walked all over by governments and/or employers and they have public support in striking to win improved pay offers. A green recovery would see workers paid well and would deliver reduced poverty and fuel poverty and improved health and quality of life, supported by quality public services providing long term sustainable jobs in our communities.
The trade union movement demands the strongest possible fair policy action to transform energy systems and the economy. This must be as part of a just transition that reduces greenhouse gas emissions, tackles inequalities and helps limit global temperature rise to the Paris Agreement 1.5C target or as close to that as is still feasible. And we need concerted global action to ensure the richer countries pay their fair share, including loss and damage funds to support developing countries who are being affected first and most severely.
Such major changes involve tough choices but we do not accept that ordinary people must accept being less well off. There is plenty of money being made by those at the top as corporate profiteers exploit the crises to hike prices. People want to support a transition but it has to be fair – locally, nationally and internationally. Many have seen the massive human impacts of past transitions that were deeply unfair, such as the rapid unplanned closure of coal mines, devastating entire communities.
It is deeply frustrating that despite welcome warm words of intention from ministers and in the consultation document, the draft ESJTP is not at this stage fit for purpose as a plan or a strategy.
Click on the PDF, top left above, to read our detailed response, which focuses on five priorities:
- the importance of investing in social infrastructure – care, education and health, as part of a just transition
- the climate science that demands the world phases out fossil fuels urgently – we call, with the SCCS coalition, for the Scottish Government to start planning immediately for a credible managed wind down of North Sea oil and gas as part of a just transition, with trade unions and communities fully involved in agreeing timescales
- the strong case for public ownership in energy and transport
- planning a truly just transition
- funding the transition – spending priorities and political choices
 https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-65427372 https://www.standard.co.uk/business/business-news/bp-profit-more-than-ps500m-higher-than-expected-b1078094.html https://www.theguardian.com/business/2023/may/02/bp-profits-energy-windfall-tax-oil-gas