Climate change is already being felt here in Scotland.
Extreme weather events and rising sea levels are becoming more prevalent.
We have to act – and it is without doubt that a key part of tackling climate change is to accelerate our transition away from a reliance on fossil fuels and a carbon-intensive economy.
The way we deliver this transformation really matters. The changes will impact our jobs, the way we live and the way we do business.
Our communities still carry scars from poorly managed transitions of the past – we will not allow this to happen again.
That is why this government is focused on a just transition to net zero.
Last year, I was appointed Scotland’s first Minister for Just Transition, tasked by the first minister with supporting the transformation of industries, helping businesses to adapt and innovate, and supporting communities to ensure that they have a cleaner, safer future.
It is not an easy job, but is one that is crucial for our future.
Over the next generation, a just transition will mean good green jobs in a thriving, net-zero and climate resilient economy.
It offers the ability to improve the way we live at home as well as expanding the possibilities for exporting our products and expertise around the globe.
The transition is an opportunity to re-imagine the way we do things, to tackle inequalities, to make sure our energy system works for the citizens, communities and businesses of Scotland.
Our cornerstone policy over the next decade is a £500 million investment in a Just Transition Fund for the north-east and Moray.
The fund will support the region to become one of world’s centres of excellence for the transition to a net zero economy.
We have, alongside unions and industry, called upon the UK Government multiple times to match the Just Transition Fund but unfortunately there has been no positive response from them, despite over £300 billion that has flown to the Treasury from North Sea Oil since the 1970s.
Launched last month, the Just Transition Fund is taking a more innovative approach to financing and offering a variety of options – ranging from capital grants, investment designed to generate a return, and a blended approach of the two.
The fund is now open for expressions of interest with £20 million earmarked for the current financial year.
As part of the fund, we will be ring-fencing £1 million to directly support communities via a participatory budgeting mechanism – which means communities can design and vote on the interventions they choose.
I am excited about the potential of this fund and very grateful to all those who have helped to design it.
If you are interested, I would encourage you to visit our website to find out more, expressions of interest close on July 15, 2022.
As part our work on the fund over the last year, I have had the opportunity to meet with a range of people from Aberdeen, the north-east and Moray to hear their views on what a just transition means for the oil and gas sector.
North Sea has ‘important role’
Oil and gas are part of our energy mix right now – and will continue to be so during the transition. Many jobs depend on it – directly and indirectly.
The people working in that sector now – and in decades past – have contributed hugely to Scotland’s prosperity.
The North Sea has an important role to play now and in Scotland’s future.
It is why we are giving careful consideration to our first Just Transition Plan, which will be integrated into our Energy Strategy as a joint energy strategy and Just Transition Plan.
We are working to deliver these key pieces of work in the context of a fast-moving energy landscape and rapidly evolving global energy environment.
This week marks the start of a series of events with public sector partners, businesses and communities, which will extend throughout the summer.
The purpose of this programme is to support the design of the first Just Transition Plan in a way that is truly collaborative, ensuring we are listening to the views of those who are most likely to be impacted by the transition.
The future for the energy sector in Scotland is bright. We are making great strides in developing our offshore wind and our hydrogen sectors.
Scotland is also the best-placed and most cost-effective nation in Europe to realise carbon capture, utilisation and storage.
A report from Robert Gordon University highlights the importance this initiative will have in future-proofing jobs in the North East.
If the UK Government would only admit its mistake and get behind the Scottish Cluster.
So, as Scotland makes the transition to alternative energy sources, our task is to ensure that job opportunities and wealth are created in a way which doesn’t leave entire communities and those who live in them behind.
The move to net zero is an environmental and a moral imperative, but also a massive economic opportunity. The Scottish Government is committed to doing whatever it takes to ensure the transition is fair and just for all.
Richard Lochhead is the Minister for Just Transition, Employment and Fair Work and MSP for Moray.