New Just Transition Commission Report on how to make Scotland’s transport system fairer

Lang Banks

A NEW report from Scotland’s Just Transition Commission says driving less can be part of a better and fairer transport system as the country pushes ahead with efforts to tackle the climate emergency.

The report calls on the Scottish Government to put the right investment and planning in place so that big changes can happen in a fair way. It highlights the risk that changes intended to reduce Scotland’s carbon emissions could prove unpopular if they have a negative effect on shift workers, those who currently rely on private cars to do essential work such as social care, and those with disabilities and caring responsibilities.

The Scottish Government has a target of reducing car kilometres by 20 percent by 2030.

The Commission says if measures such as charges to road users were to be introduced, these funds should go into improving public transport. “Rail, bus and ferry services need urgent improvements,” says the report.

The long-term plan from the Scottish Government and local councils will need to find ways to make services, amenities and facilities easier for people to access without a car.

“A long-term public information campaign will be needed to build collective understanding of what action is being taken, how full compliance is being achieved, progress reporting, challenges and positive impacts,” says the report.

The report’s key messages are:

  • A just transition for transport requires a whole system approach. After decades of centralisation, a just transition for transport must be supported by strategic action in terms of spatial policy, land use planning and a new funding model capable of delivering the required investment.
  • A redistributive strategy is needed to achieve public consent for big changes. A big part of this is improving public transport.
  • The key risk is social isolation, and the needs of vulnerable groups must be central to decision-making through proper consultation and engagement.

The independent expert advisory group advises the Scottish Government on how the country can achieve a carbon neutral economy fairly.

Members drawn from industry, business and finance, trade unions, environmental and community groups, and academia serve on the Commission. They provide expert scrutiny and advice on a series of just transition plans that cover different regions and sectors of Scotland’s economy.

Last month, the Commission’s Chair, Dundonian climate scientist Prof. Jim Skea CBE was elected to lead the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the high-profile United Nations body whose reports have played a key role in shaping global understanding of the climate emergency over the past 30 years. 

Today he announced he has resigned from his role as Chair of the Just Transition Commission, with a successor to be announced in the coming weeks.

The Commission aims to make sure the benefits and burdens of the major changes involved in Scotland’s net zero transition are shared as fairly as possible. The Just Transition Commission’s remit is to:  

  • Scrutinise the development of just transition plans led by the Scottish Government  
  • Advise on the best approach to monitoring and evaluation of the just transition  
  • Engage with people most likely to be impacted by the transition, hearing from a wide range of representative voices.  

Professor Jillian Anable, a Commissioner and transport expert at Leeds University said: “The transition to a decarbonised transport system in Scotland requires rapid and wholescale changes to the vehicles we use as well as how much we use them. The Scottish Government have set a target to reduce the proportion of car miles travelled by 20% by 2030. This is a great opportunity to address some current inequalities whereby some people have to rely on inadequate and expensive public transport, others are forced to spend money on car travel that they struggle to afford, and others travel very high mileages, often in increasingly large cars. A just transition would involve redirecting resources into the supply of better public transport, walking and cycling facilities and planning housing and other facilities that are well connected by this infrastructure”.

Lang Banks, a Commissioner and Director of WWF Scotland said: “If Scotland successfully delivers a just transition it will have helped contribute to a fairer society at the same time as addressing the climate and nature crises. However, to deliver a transition to net zero that is fair for workers, communities, and consumers it’s crucial for decision-makers to go meet and listen to those who might be directly affected, as we have done. Specifically seeking out and hearing from those whose voices are often not heard will help ensure that the benefits as well as the burdens of the changes required are shared more equitably.”

Read today’s JTC report here:

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