The energy transition is about so much more than providing low carbon energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. There are, of course, all those green jobs, major infrastructure investments, technology innovation and enhanced energy security. But how does this energy transformation provide a better pathway to growth, decent work and quality jobs? How can we ensure that major energy transition investments impact local communities equitably? How does a job in the offshore wind sector stack up against an offshore oil and gas worker?
At RenewableUK, the UK’s leading renewable energy trade association, we have been grappling with these issues for some time. Building on our Member Values Charter in October 2020, we consulted across our 400+ members to both exemplify and nudge how we could go further and faster in the energy transition. It’s not just about playing a leading role in decarbonising the UK but recognising the impact on local communities and the climate impact of our operations.
During the member values work, we touched repeatedly on the issue of a ‘just transition.’ What does this mean for our members? How can we monitor progress? How does a just transition complement the UK Government’s levelling up and green growth agenda? The result is RenewableUK’s Just Transition Tracker. Our hope is not just to bring people together to discuss and raise the profile of a just transition, but to share proof points demonstrating where and how our members are integrating carbon reductions with lasting business and social benefit.
Before sharing how we will achieve this, here is a little history and context. The ideas around just transition initially came from trade unions and environmental justice groups. The International Labour Organisation formed a comprehensive set of principles as part of the Paris Climate Agreement negotiations to underpin the creation of decent work and quality jobs in accordance with nationally defined development priorities. For environmental justice groups, the development of a vision with principles, processes and practices in place is essential to avoid the disproportionate exposure that low-income communities have experienced from industrial and fossil fuel pollution.
Today, you will find a plethora of just transition plans and policies across business and politics, and a cursory search will give you 449,000,000 hits on Google. Some particularly useful resources include The Scottish Government’s Just Transition Commission, the World Resources Institute, the World Economic Forum and the Grantham Research Institute. The economic and social impact of Covid has varied widely across income, age, and geographies – reinforcing existing disparities. With major public investment plans for various ‘green new deals’ shaping up, the notion of a just transition offers particular resonance. In terms of practical politics and climate change, there has never been a more important time to couple energy and industrial policy with social policy.
The RenewableUK Just Transition Tracker covers three themes: people, place and planet. As a ‘tracker’ it is a dynamic tool, to showcase current good practice and future actions undertaken by members on their just transition journey. Specific elements include investment in apprenticeships; delivering on diversity and inclusion; world leading training standards; increasing UK content; focussed project benefits for communities and supply chain emissions reductions – plus many other ideas.
Measuring progress and reporting on good stories across the industry is essential. We don’t need another document with just good intentions, but real impact. Wind energy already provides over 18 million UK households with clean, home-grown electrons. To meet the Government’s 2030 offshore wind target we need to grow our offshore wind fleet four-fold in ten years - and that offers a unique opportunity to boost UK manufacturing, particularly in turbine blades, towers, monopile foundations and power cables. This offers huge just transition opportunities across the country – with RenewableUK members at the heart of this.