What is a Just Transition and how do we achieve it?

Tea & Talk
Publication Date
09/12/2021
Featuring
Professor Jim Skea CBE FRSE
Professor Camilla Toulmin FRSE
Tea and Talk with the RSE
Tea and Talk with the RSE
What is a Just Transition and how do we achieve it?
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To close Series 5 of Tea and Talk with the RSE, Professor Jim Skea and Professor Camilla Toulmin explore the road to a Just Transition to net-zero.

Jim is Professor of Sustainable Energy at Imperial College London, co-chair of Working Group III (Mitigation) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a former member of the UK Committee on Climate Change and chaired Scotland’s Just Transition Commission.

Camilla is Senior Associate, Climate Change, International Institute for Environment and Development and Professor in Practice at the University of Lancaster. She is a Senior Fellow at the Africa-Europe Foundation, with responsibility for Sustainable Energy and Agri-food systems, an Associate at the Institute for New Economic Thinking and has spent 40 years’ work at the interface between environment and development, spanning local and global scales.

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Featuring

Episode transcript

Please note transcripts are automatically generated, so may feature errors.

[00:00:00] Rebekah Widdowfield: Hello, and welcome to the RSE Tea and Talk podcast series, a program inspired by the coffee houses of the 18th century, where great thinkers would come together to discuss ideas and matters of the day. I’m Rebekah Widdowfield and I’m chief executive of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, which is Scotland’s national academy.

Our mission is to advance learning and make knowledge useful. And to do that we are holding conversations with some of our fellows and other leading experts in Scotland to talk about important issues and the challenges that we face as a society. You can find out more about our work on our website at rse.org.uk.

 I am speaking with Professor Jim Skea, Professor of Sustainable Energy at Imperial College, London and Professor Camilla Toulmin, Senior Associate in climate change at the International Institute for Environment and Development and Professor of Practice at the University of Lancaster.

Jim is a co-chair of the working group three covering mitigation of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. A former member of the UK committee on climate change and perhaps most potently for this conversation, they have Scotland’s just transition commission. Camilla is a senior fellow at the Africa Europe foundation with responsibility for sustainable energy and the AgriFood systems and associate at the end of the Institute for new economic thinking and spent 40 years work at the interface between environmental development planning, both local and global scales, such a wealth of breadth of expertise, who better than Jim and Camilla to talk to us today about Just Transitions in Scotland and beyond.

 Jim I wonder if I might come to you, first of all, Just Transition has become very much part of the language and vocabulary around climate change, but can you just explain what it means and what it means to you and why it’s so important?

[00:01:54] Jim Skea: Yeah. Well, just to say, there is no agreed definition of Just Transition, but there are a set of principles out there that actually started with the International Labour Organisation.

On the Scottish Just Transition. what we said it was about, it was making sure that the benefits of the climate transition need to be shared in a fair way and just to emphasise, there can be benefits if it’s handled rightly. But it’s also about avoiding the risks that people, certain kinds of people, people in certain kinds of jobs are disadvantaged in an unfair way by the transition to net-zero.

That’s a bonus, very important that it’s of course it’s about outcomes, but it’s also about the process as well, because people need to be engaged with it. Otherwise the transition to net-zero is not going to happen. Fairness is the essence of it.

[00:02:47] Camilla Toulmin: And I think perhaps as much as anything it’s thinking about what might block that transition and the way that particular political interests could make it very difficult with the transition to happen.

If it’s not seen how the benefits from the transition will be properly shared. So that’s also trying to link that sort of more technical understanding of transition with a need for the political process to be able to handle it.

[00:03:20] Rebekah Widdowfield: Camilla a lot of your work has obviously been in Africa. Does this, the notion or the concept of the principles of just transmission transition transfer across to there?

[00:03:29] Camilla Toulmin: Well, they do very much, so I think both at a country level, but also at a international level I was just thinking, Jim, wouldn’t you say, in lots of ways that the UN framework convention on climate change is in effect a global it’s an attempt to make a global Just Transition and to bring in the voices, the interest perspectives of different groups to understanding how we make these changes together. Yeah.

[00:04:06] Jim Skea: If you look at the language of the framework convention and the Paris agreement is littered with ideas about common, but differentiated responsibilities, the ideas of equity,poverty eradication attention to sustainable development.

 Camilla is absolutely right, the ideas behind Just Transition tend to be embedded in, in these international agreements.

[00:04:30] Camilla Toulmin: And then of course, if you look at particular African countries Africa is massively diverse. And so you’ve got a country like South Africa or Nigeria, Angola, Algeria that are very heavily dependent, either on coal or oil, then they have a very particular set of issues around how they wean themselves off of that.

That’s obviously very different to a country like Burkino Faso or Liberia or Sierra Leone that have tiny emissions per head and who really need help in terms of thinking about how to get investment in the new, clean, renewable energies that are going to make it possible for them to go and then develop their economies.

[00:05:24] Jim Skea: If I can just add to that, Rebekah, it’s very striking that the term Just Transition tends to have been applied in the last few years in a very narrow set of circumstances. It’s mainly been about how countries exit from the coal industry. And Camilla has mentioned South Africa.

And in fact, if you have the Just Transition initiatives in South Africa are very, definitely around that. I think one of the things that the Scottish Just Transition commission did and why there’s a lot of international attention on it is that it’s extended the Just transition concept and its application to get beyond the coal industry and to get into a wider range of aspects.

And that is going to be essential. I think if it just stays rooted in the coal industry, It’s not going to be so widely applicable.

[00:06:12] Rebekah Widdowfield: We’ve heard, quite a lot of the attention does seem to have focused certainly in these early conversations, very much on the implications for the oil and gas industry and that’s conversation is beginning to broaden that maybe into other areas, likely agricultural sectors.

But can you say a bit more Jim, about how these implications sort of work out on the ground and how they can best be managed?

[00:06:33] Jim Skea: Just Transitioned in the application of its principles it gets to all areas of policymaking, once you take it broad, it covers everything, which is why I think it’s important that Scotland has actually created a Just Transition minister to try and coordinate all the activities across different domains.

But the big three, I thought for Scotland specifically the big three headline issues. Are the exiting from oil and gas industry, and what that means for, the changing structure of energy supply. There’s a big issue around housing and its refurbishment because there are triple wins there around reducing carbon emissions, building up more higher, skilled employment and addressing fuel poverty.

And then the other very big one in Scotland is that is the question of land use is now an issue I’d have to say as a townie and an energy person. My biggest education on the Just Transition commission was learning about the challenges around Just Transition in the agriculture and land sector, which I find I’m totally humbled by the complexity of the issues that we’re faced with.

[00:07:46] Rebekah Widdowfield: And Camilla land use I imagine it’s been very much an important part of, your work. Over the last decades, how has Just Transition playing out in the land use sector, in the work that you’re engaged in?

[00:07:59] Camilla Toulmin: Well I suppose I’m watching what’s happening on the land use question in the UK and European scene as much as I am in Africa, on the African continent there’s a biggest year around the use of wood, fuel and charcoal for cooking. And there’s been a big push over the last few years to try and get gas LPG into cooking systems, particularly in urban areas, in different parts of Africa. So that women who have got a clean fuel to cook with so then not plagued by smoke. And also if you look at carbon emissions, you get a net win from stopping charcoal, kerosene and wood fuel.

And the benefits in terms of landscapes and reforestation and shift to LPG, but there’s been some slowness to be willing to adopt a gas is a clean cooking fuel because people think gas of fossil fuel. We shouldn’t have that, but in terms of both the health benefits, the time and the drudgery and also the health of the ecosystem, in fact, shifting from wood fuel too LPG is really a winner.

[00:09:29] Rebekah Widdowfield: It’s interesting, actually, what you’re both saying there, in terms of the co-benefits the RSE had a conference on climate change earlier this week. And that was one of the things that came out quite strongly about that is thinking about actually the, that you said right at the start, do you have about what some of the benefits are of that transition and making sure those benefits that are realised?

Both of you spoke sort of earlier on about the importance of people needing to be engaged. I was just wondering how far you feel that those communities that are maybe on the sharp end thinking maybe in terms of Scotland, first of all, the oil and gas communities or the communities have been very reliant on those industries, how far are they behind this notion of Just Transition and how can they be best engaged or how are they being engaged in terms of supporting that transition to a rather different world?

[00:10:16] Jim Skea: Well, maybe just to come in and say the phrase, Just Transition, it’s caught on in Scotland, but I think it’s rather caught on in the salons of Edinburgh and Glasgow rather than being spread more widely. If I can put it that way, because there’s certainly, there’s been surveys done with oil and gas workers, and you will find 5 or 10% of them have ever heard of the concept of, Just Transition. They are very much more concerned about immediate ideas. But it’s worthwhile saying that a lot of these surveys also show that people who work in the oil and gas industry see a lot of disadvantages to work in the oil and gas industry. The working patterns often off on the rigs is not sort of family friendly or anything else.

And it’s also very subject to the variations in global oil markets. The price goes up, people get taken on, price goes down, people are laid off. I think one of the potentials is a lot of the skills in that industry can actually be moved into other things like offshore renewables, potentially hydrogen and carbon capture and storage.

If you go in that direction and because these are very capital intensive things, if we plan properly for it, it could give the signals in a more stable kind of employment prospects, as the people move from one part of the energy sector to another.

[00:11:39] Rebekah Widdowfield: That’s interesting what you say about the surveys and that sort of low level of awareness.

But if we are going to plan properly for it, we do need to be engaging with those communities and those workers. Have you got any ideas or views on how we might do that more effectively?

[00:11:56] Jim Skea: First of all, I don’t think in the end of the day, it particularly matters whether people are familiar with the phrase, Just Transition, as long as we get on with the underlying ideas and perhaps express it in more common language about, about fairness and, protecting people’s employment.

I think that’s probably the more important part of that. But then there are lots of practical ideas right there. The Scottish government has invested in the climate emergency skills action plan and there are also issues around skills passports. For people to allow the skills that they’ve acquired working in the oil and gas industry to be recognised in other sectors of the energy industry.

So for example, if you’ve been a diver on the north sea oil or gas platform, you need to pay 1500 pounds to be retrained to do much the same job. On an offshore renewables platform that does not make any sense at all, to do that. It’s a real obstacle, especially as the industry is moving much more towards contractualisation self-employed people, rather than people who are on payroll and face the costs of their own things.

So when you get down to its very practical issues like that, that we really need to deal with,

[00:13:17] Rebekah Widdowfield: I think it ties in with an increasing understanding of the need to build in experience in terms of developing effective policy and effective policy interventions. Camilla from your work are there things that you found, particularly useful techniques and mechanisms or approaches that are being used to engage people in the decisions that impact upon their lives and to support that, not just using those experiences into policy as well.

[00:13:44] Camilla Toulmin: Just quickly on the transition and skills question. I think it’s important to think of this as a journey over time and one might expect over a 20, 25 year journey. That there would be people who retire, people come into the industry and so as much as anything, I think the Just Transition is about offering new opportunities to the younger generation so that they don’t get into the oil and gas sector in the first place. So opening up the R and D skills development, that makes sense for the industries of the future. So that you’ve got less of a big number of people needing to make that transition.

So I think if one thinks about it over time, it all becomes much more doable. In terms of thinking about what makes sense for engagement with I think the most important thing is creating a sense of confidence and trust that this is a process that they can have a real role in shaping.

And that goes back to how government has worked with people at the lower levels of the administration over many years. If I take a number of African countries where I’ve worked in lots of places, that relationship is very difficult because people see that they pay their taxes, but get nothing back.

And that there interests aren’t heard. Whereas in other parts of Africa, there’s a much more positive relationship that’s developed between national and particularly between local government and local communities. I think it’s all to do with people feeling that their perspective is understood and that they can shape the way in which decisions made building on their own knowledge and experience.

And also that they have a power of decision-making. Over the funding that’s being provided. We’ve been at AID. We’ve been doing work. Senegal, Mali, Tanzania and Kenya building up this decentralised climate finance program that essentially lodges money at village and local government level, so that people have got direct control over that rather than kind of waiting, hoping, and praying.

That’s small jobs might, trickle down from, from central government. So I think those are some of the necessary issues.

[00:16:42] Rebekah Widdowfield: Quite a lot in there I was just wondering in terms of the work that, that Just Transition commission has been doing Jim, under your leadership, is that something. That you looked at in terms of their, sort of the handing over of resources, if you like to local communities to make the decisions about actually what would be required.

[00:16:59] Jim Skea: Yes one of the four big themes that we sort of lead on with our recommendations was entirely about participation on, bringing decision-making, close to people. And there were a lot of very specific things in there, but we were attracted to the idea of green participatory budgeting.

At the local authority level you with much more involvement in local people of how budgets are actually said, but even then with local authorities, I question are they close enough to actual communities? So the importance of community. To act as a bridge there. And we were very tight,…. that we had representatives of community groups on the first commission and we would aim to go in that direction.

Things like the citizens assembly on climate in Scotland was an important feature. I mean it’s the kind of thing, you’ve just got to keep on beating the drum and continuing the processes. I think one of the big challenges probably resourcing around local authorities. Do they have the capacity to do all the things we expect of them, at the moment, because they have a huge potential role.

And I think without them, it won’t happen. So we need to think very carefully about resourcing and processes for actually making it come about.

[00:18:14] Rebekah Widdowfield: The RSE post COVID futures commission reported earlier this week and one of their recommendations is precisely about putting people at the heart of policymaking and of public services, but also recognition that in order to do that in order to do public engagement well, that there’s a need to build up capacity and capability, just both amongst ourselves as citizens, but amongst policymakers and people working at our local authority level.

 Just in terms of that sort of interrelationship between these different levels of, I can put it in those terms, individual community, local government, national government, and beyond that’s quite a complex space in which to be working. Did the Just Transition commission try and navigate our way through that at all.

[00:19:01] Jim Skea: Yeah. Well, just to say, we met for two years, so now I have to say, people talk about talking the talk and walking the walk. And there was a lot of talking in that initial stage. Our job was to produce the recommendations and set the direction. And I think with the Just Transition commission in the second phase as much going to be about making things happen on monitoring what government does to make sure that it’s doing the job as well. Yes we did talk a lot about, we’re just to say one of the things that we talked about a lot, actually, was what makes a good recommendation to government and what is one?

And there was a kind of a Goldilocks principle. We arrived at that guided us. We don’t want recommendations that are so vague. That they don’t mean anything on a Monday morning. So putting people at the heart of it, that’s a classic kind of recommendation. Yes. It’s obvious it’s for beating the drum or shaking the tambourine, but it doesn’t tell somebody what to do.

On the other hand, you don’t want to do something that’s so specific that a civil servant can spot a flaw in it a mile off it’s a kind of a mid-level recommendation and we thought about that very carefully before we came up with the 24 recommendations that we did come up with.

[00:20:17] Rebekah Widdowfield: Oh, it’s a very fair point, and just to reassure the COVID commission had a top level recommendation, then had three or four actions that were again, not so specific that, that there wasn’t any room for maneuver and further discussion, but gave a clear sense of maybe what actions should be taken. But if you think about this as sort of looking at the different levels within a country of engagement, but what about between countries? and can we get just transitional on a global level, recognising I suspect that you very much in your work Camilla is some of the poorer countries of the world who’ve had historically, and in fact still do have very low greenhouse gas emissions per person. What does Just Transition look like at a global level to you Camilla?

[00:21:03] Camilla Toulmin: I think there are a number of things. I think one is recognising and committing to the pledge of a hundred million, a hundred billion per year for developing countries to help with both mitigation and adaptation. That pledge is still, unless you know to the contrary, Jim, that ledges still got a bit of a gap in it.

In terms both of the headline amount, but also the sense of confidence that it will like be delivered. So that’s key. I think that the COVID experience has also created a level of distrust if you like, which needs to be rebuild. I think those countries, particularly in Africa who were relying on more rapid delivery of the COVID vaccines have felt that they already need look after for themselves and they can’t rely on the multilateral process as much as they might have three, four years ago.

So I think trying to rebuild trust is a really important part of this picture. And then thinking about clever ways of unlocking capital at the moment, we’ve got, a significant amounts of private capital sitting in rich countries. That’s not earning much in the way. Interest. and yet at the same time, you’ve got capital scarce countries in many parts of the developing world who could really use that capital to build the energy systems that the future. But they are paying 8, 10, 12% plus in terms of annual rates of interest. So there’s a real dysfunctionality, if you like in our global finance system, in terms of being able to tap into that make it available, make sure that there are credible investment frameworks in those countries so that will return amount, the people who’ve invested.

So I think, I think there’s a whole number of different things that need to be done, but I think rebuilding trust is a key part of that.

[00:23:25] Rebekah Widdowfield: Thanks Camilla, Jim. Is that something that the IPCC has been thinking at all about in terms of the implications of COVID and how that might Impact on the willingness or the confidence of engaging and addressing climate change.

[00:23:39] Jim Skea: Yeah. Well, of course the IPCC reports are still in draft, which is where I have to go in about an half hour’s time. But just to say the Just Transition ideas of scope into the next synthesis report for IPCC so they will be absolutely addressed. But just to say on Camilla’s point, I think Just Transition, it applies both within countries, boundaries and across them.

And I think Camilla’s mentioned the money bit of it, but I think the other part of it is the developed countries and the big emitters should be making their commitments to get their ommissions down it’s essential if countries are going to be able to adapt to climate change or avoid loss and damage that the big emitters actually do take very ambitious action.

And I completely agree with the fact that the a hundred billion point, that Camilla’s made. The other thing to say internationally is the question of sharing experience about what is actually happening within national boundaries on Just Transition. It’s worth while saying there’s been an extraordinary amount of international attention to what Scotland’s been doing on Just Transition, which is almost embarrassing, we need to manage the expectations on that, there’s been a huge interest, especially in European countries with the EU green deal on the Just Transition components of that and also north America as well, and other place where there’s been a lot of interest.

[00:25:10] Rebekah Widdowfield: I’m not sure you talk about managing expectations. What should your nervousness then in terms of what people are expecting and what might be able to be delivered.

[00:25:20] Jim Skea: Well my fear is that Just Transitioned are just two words that are sort of sprinkled, like magic dust on transition policies that somehow make it all socially

acceptable and actually it is very difficult to do it the challenges of net zero and the challenges of making that transition just are very large and, I think it’s very important that not to convey the message that it’s all too easy because there’s an awful lot of hard work that needs to be done on a lot of serious commitments that need to be made.

[00:25:53] Rebekah Widdowfield: And I guess it is getting that balance of there are win-wins, but there are also trade offs and difficult choices to be made.

[00:26:01] Camilla Toulmin: I just wanted to come back a bit and ask Jim one question and then talk a bit about land use. Jim, what difference do you think the COVID crisis has made to our prospects for Just Transition and I’m thinking perhaps of the big role that government has taken.

Over the crisis. Does that help in what other way do you think we’ve been either held back or possibly accelerate?

[00:26:34] Jim Skea: There’s no simple answer to that. There’s a very transitory effect on energy demand and emissions, and I think everybody expects that to you to kind of bounce back again completely, the, world is full of inequalities and COVID has exacerbated

these inequalities and I think there’s also the risk that, climate change action. If it’s not formulated in the right way, could also exacerbate inequalities as well as help to, to address them. So the challenge is just transition is designing policies in the, in the right kind of way in the longer term, the fact that governments.

have actually had to take very decisive action on a very immediate problem is an important lesson about what you can achieve if you act very decisively and that I think is much more difficult to translate into policy and political action, but I think it demonstrates what can be done and we get into perpetual debate.

 We’ve been debating since time immemorial the balance between markets and planning, but I think both COVID and the climate emergency raised that issue about what the balance is. I don’t want to throw away markets, absolutely. But whether markets operate within a much more planned framework, given the urgency of action.

I think that is a big challenge.

[00:28:00] Rebekah Widdowfield: Let me just pick up that cause one thing of COVID, it was both acting decisively, but also investing, I guess at scale and clearly COVID was an acute problem and climate change, maybe it could be described as a more chronic one. But in terms of thinking about investment and maybe thinking about it in Scotland, first of all, what sorts of investments do you think will be needed to promote greener industry and generate new jobs?

[00:28:25] Jim Skea: If this is for me Rebekah, just to say that there’s some part, some investments will look after themselves and we know that renewable energy is effectively cheaper than producing energy from conventional sources. I think we can count on private capital markets to come in and actually get that done I’m not sure that the public policy needs to keep a watching brief on it, but it will be private capital. Where I think in terms of more public investment, it will be things like building up the capacity of say Scottish enterprises to meet the business opportunities that come from a net-zero transition.

So a trade union members of the commission would absolutely emphasise that Scotland has not done very well out of creating jobs out of the offshore renewables industry so far, for example, and I think it’s very important that that is done by building up the capacities of Scottish industry and is not done by just simply erecting trade barriers to allow you to allow perhaps less efficient enterprises to survive.

So I think that’s very important part of it on the land sector is also going to need a lot of investment. I think the Scottish national investment bank has already put money up for expanding wood land areas in Scotland, which is something that would need to happen.

[00:29:53] Camilla Toulmin: But again, it rather depends how that’s done. I’m concerned that a big chunk of the Scottish national investment bank money has gone into forestry activity. People are still planting trees on peatland, which is complete madness. It’s going backwards rather than forwards and very often, and I speak now more about the Northwest of England, where I spend quite a lot of time with my

Lancaster hat on. There’s a real sense amongst farmers that the playing field is being tilted against them through various forestry grants, which make it much easier for us to go back to some of the things that we saw in the seventies and eighties of people getting tax advantages from buying up a lot of land and then putting it under conifer.

So I think we do need to be very careful about how the investment in forestry takes place. And again, go back to landscapes and people and think about, well, what kind of forestry, how much of it, where and who benefits rather than it being a sort of large-scale conifer type approach that brings benefits to investors in distant parts of the country or elsewhere.

I think, just to think about what, it makes sense to churning courage. I think getting both individuals and community groups to invest in renewable energy is really important. Jim says, it’s, it’s cheaper now than any other form of energy, which is true, but then there are all sorts of additional costs that people forget about like the connection charge.

So you’ve got a micro hydro plant, which is able to generate electricity, but the electricity company is going to charge you 200,000 pounds to connect that site to the grid. So there are all sorts of things which are getting in the way of making more of this happen and I think that we need to think about that.

Not only in terms of our own country, but also in other parts of the world as well. So in many parts of Africa villages have been investing in individual solar panels. The village that I’ve been following Maley has got more than 200 solar panels, each bought by a family or an individual. So they’re generating huge amounts of electricity for their own purpose, recharging, mobile phones and everything.

But there’s no way at the moment for them to be able to aggregate and feed that power into the wider system, because it’s those kind of connection costs that can be really costly and difficult to make happen.

[00:33:04] Jim Skea: Sorry. I’ve been itching to get in here and showing it a little bit, so just to say, our, IPCC group managed the special report on climate change in land and I just want to completely endorse Camilla’s message about it’s how you do it

that matters. That was a very strong message. It matters in terms of scale. The kind of species you choose and the land management practices you put in this is absolutely critical and turning it back to Scotland a little. I think we have to acknowledge there are really some fundamental structural challenges around land use and agriculture.

You have the heavy concentration of land ownership coupled with the prevalence of tenancy farming and some of it quite frankly, perverse incentives that that addresses means. This is a very, very complex area. I need to think. I had never realised the complexity of thinking about a multi-generational tenancy and how that interacts with inheritance laws.

And what that does for incentive? For mitigation measures, but unless we grapple understand these issues properly and grapple with them, we won’t get the solutions. It’s more deep rooted rather than just the individual in a policy instrument. You want to apply.

[00:34:22] Rebekah Widdowfield: It’s difficult, isn’t it? When you’re trying to sort of engage with a lot of people like me who are lay people and that complexity it’s beyond trees.

It’s beyond, it’s thinking of it as a bit more at a specific level about what needs to be done and avoiding unintentional consequences like for example, the impact on peat. But looking ahead to COP26 what for you would be the next steps to get to net-zero by 2045. Camilla, what would they be for you ?

[00:34:52] Camilla Toulmin: Well, as I say, I think looking at it from a global perspective it’s obviously, reaching that emissions gap about which, Jim is the expert I’ll leave the detail to him. So there’s the emissions gap and then there’s the issue around adaptation loss and damage, so rebuilding the confidence and trust of those parts of the world that see themselves always as being on the receiving end of the impact.

But with precious little, in terms of resources to help build the resilience that they need. So that pledge of a hundred billion needs to be upfront, credible and ready to go. Now.

[00:35:46] Jim Skea: Well, just to say, the three goals of the Paris agreement are around reducing emissions to limit warming between the well below two.

It’s the finance side of it. And it’s increasing resilience and these are interlocking goals. You can’t achieve one without the other. And I think it’s incredibly important that there’s progress on all of them made, when we get to Glasgow next week, given when we’re recording. So I think at the moment there is a big gap still between the pledges, the nationally determined contributions that have come in, even the revised ones on where you would need to be to limit warming

to even below two degrees. So there is still quite a long way to go and we could hope that some of that gap would be closed by the end of the crop. But I think many people would probably want to be a little bit skeptical about it, but just to emphasise, and this is a really important IPPC point.

We don’t fall over cliffs at 1.5 or even two degrees in terms of damage, every little bit of extra ….. and I don’t think we should give up and despair because we still have human agency at all points.

[00:37:04] Rebekah Widdowfield: It’s a good reminder that these are, these are not cliffs, but thinking about actually the consequences, if we don’t make more progress, What are the practical implications, in 5 years, in 10 years, in 20 years time, what might we expect to see in terms at Scottish level and at a global level, if we don’t make more progress.

[00:37:27] Jim Skea: What I would say Rebekah is that adaptation and impact is not my area of expertise, I come from the mitigation side of IPPC, but obviously the biggest sort of infrastructure issues around Scotland are probably around flooding issues as we saw in Glasgow yesterday.

 For example, I think some of the bigger issues for Scotland would be around, impacts on ecosystems, which would be some of the bigger impacts there globally flooding affects on productivity for crops, et cetera, are all going to be issues that come in on, some of them will be gradual on some of them, like sea level rise are pretty much unavoidable because it takes so long to get to response from the climate ocean system.

[00:38:21] Camilla Toulmin: Well certainly now thinking about the part of Africa that I know best, and who’ve been following for 40 years what you’ve seen so far is increased unpredictability around rainfall and annual weather systems, not only more drought, but actually in a lot of places, a lot more rain, but it’s rain that comes in a few very, very large storms that deliver far more water than you can possibly use rather than the more sort of drizzly rain, which is helpful to crop growth.

And I think we’ll just see more of those more extreme patterns of weather with the consequences that that brings both for crop production, but also flooding of villages of towns, of cities and associated infrastructure. Can I just say that there’s one other thing that I very much hope comes out of COP26, which is rail partnership between

different regions of the world to build the low carbon energy infrastructure that’s going to be needed all over the planet. I think we in the UK have got. A whole set of issues around how we build a grid that is clever and smart enough to take on increasing volumes of renewable energy, particularly, lots and lots of micro generation.

These are similar problems to grid, design and development that you find in many developing countries and in Africa as well. So I think there’s a real big technical R and D challenge to see how to design and to roll out these sorts of solutions that are going to make a huge difference.

And I hope having everybody together in Glasgow is going to enable some of those partnerships and ideas to get taken forward.

[00:40:33] Rebekah Widdowfield: You’ve actually led me Camilla quite nicely into, into my last question, which was to be a bit more positive and a bit more optimistic. We are, as Jim says, recording this in the lead up to COP26 ,you said about your hopes for COP 26 Camilla Jim, what are your hopes for it ?

[00:40:46] Jim Skea: Well obviously we can have the grand hopes around the 100 billion and closing the emissions gap just to say, this is not quite the landmark COP26 you’d say the Paris COP was in 2015.

This is much more about the implementation of the Paris agreement and how you move the agenda forward and I hate to be very kind of technocratic and detailed on it, but there is a lot of sort of very unexciting kind of sub negotiating going on, which is incredibly important. Like for example, around article six of the Paris agreement for which we do not have a rule book on so called internationally traded mitigation options. So these kinds of things matter on if you’re an aficionado which I hope people who are watching this are not because I would pity them if they were this is something we do need to make attention to because these detailed things do matter.

[00:41:57] Rebekah Widdowfield: And I guess we’ve seen that in the next stage of the Just Transition commission, which you chair, which is now very much focusing on delivery. Just maybe closing on that. What are the key next steps for the commission in terms of delivering that? Just transition?

[00:42:13] Jim Skea: I am the only member at the moment, so getting the other and members of the commission appointed would be a good stage, which I hope we do fairly quickly. But we haven’t got the terms of reference nailed down precisely yet a big part of it will be monitoring and evaluating the progress and we will be looking for metrics for doing that and we will be scrutinising on providing advice to the just transition minister has been appointed Richard Lochhead , and we have a continued remit to continue with the kind of engagement we carried out in phase one. So these are the elements they all go together, but we will have a much bigger analytical capacity in phase two than we did in phase one, given the delivery nature of the job.

[00:43:00] Camilla Toulmin: And can I just encourage you Jim as you take that forward to think about kind of working with sharing, learning lessons with other such processes around the world? I think as you say, the Scottish example has received perhaps undue attention, partly because so few other places have really gone forward much with this, but it seems to me that it’s a really, wonderful opportunity for people in many different parts of the world to try and get this right and getting it right has to be through talking, listening, and learning from others.

[00:43:42] Rebekah Widdowfield: And maybe that’s where we will see some progress in COP26 in the coming weeks. Professor Jim Skea, Professor Camilla Toulmin. Thank you so much for sparing your time and your expertise today to talk to us about Just Transition in Scotland and beyond.

[00:43:57] Camilla Toulmin: Thank you.

[00:43:58] Jim Skea: Thank you.

Thanks for listening. You can find previous Tea and Talk episodes on our website rse.org.uk. or you can subscribe on Spotify, apple, and Google podcasts for our latest news details, events and activities search for the Royal Society of Edinburgh on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

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Tea & Talk
Publication Date
09/12/2021
Featuring
Professor Jim Skea CBE FRSE
Professor Camilla Toulmin FRSE
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