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IPPR - Make Aberdeenshire a European renewable energy centre of excellence, urges locals in climate citizens’ jury

Aberdeenshire residents, from city and shire, want to use existing skills and natural assets to turn ‘the oil capital of Europe’ into a green energy and manufacturing hub

The UK and Scottish governments need to have a vision and a strategy that can realise the potential of a low-carbon Aberdeenshire, with investment and support for training, green jobs, education and new approaches to farming, according to a first-of-its-kind Aberdeenshire climate citizens’ jury.

Over eight sessions organised by the IPPR Environmental Justice Commission, a group of 22 representative Aberdeenshire locals, including a student, carer, and oil and gas industry workers, heard from experts, deliberated and developed proposals for a fair transition to a cleaner, healthier low-carbon future.

Despite starting the process with a range of views on climate change, the jurors all saw great potential for the region to shed its image as the ‘oil capital of Europe’ and instead become a centre of excellence for renewable energy in Europe.

The jury decided that to achieve this, a government strategy is needed to develop local sectors like hydrogen, wind, and tidal energy, as well as local manufacturing and projects based around the regions’ stunning natural assets. A green skills academy will also be needed to provide training and re-training. In a statement the jury said:

“We have huge assets - from our local industry to the skills, talent and expertise of all who live in Aberdeenshire. There is a huge opportunity to build on these strengths, but we need a vision and a strategy to maximise them.”

IPPR previously calculated that across the decommissioning of oil and gas rigs, installation of underwater cabling for wind farms and new wind projects, carbon capture and storage and production of low-carbon hydrogen around 275,000 jobs could be created across the UK.

The jurors are clear that fairness must be at the foundation of the changes that need to take place. With more than 10 per cent of total employment in Aberdeenshire currently in the oil and gas industry, it is essential workers are given support and new opportunities.

Beyond the fossil fuel industry, Aberdeenshire is home to over one-quarter of Scotland’s arable farming area, with 2,500 farm businesses. These farmers will also need to play a crucial role in supporting nature to thrive and helping tackle the climate crisis. One juror said during deliberations:

“I think they’ve got to help them financially. I’ve got family that have farmed for generations and that’s all they know, you know, farming cattle and sheep. It’s not all that easy to change.”

Through the deliberative process, the jurors produced 32 recommendations for councils, and the Scottish and UK governments, published in a report. Key recommendations include:

  • Creating training academies for green jobs to for new and existing workers to enter well paid good quality jobs in renewable energy and other climate-compatible careers. Training academies should also help farmers improve agricultural practices.
  • Developing a strategy to boost local renewable energy jobs and manufacturing, with a joint approach by business and the UK and Scottish governments, drawing on existing assets and skills.
  • Giving workers a voice at every level of decision making, from workplaces to national decisions developing a strategy for the future of jobs.
  • Supporting farmers to change the way they use the land, through a combination of information sharing, education and subsidies for environmentally friendly practices.

The jurors saw the way the Scottish and UK governments had taken bold action, advised by scientific experts, to tackle the pandemic and felt that this meant action on the scale required to tackle the climate and nature crises was possible. The recovery from Covid-19 was also seen as an opportunity to reset the economy: “time for government to hit the reset button” said one juror. Another said of their 32 proposals:

“It’s over to the decision-makers to take this forward and invest, educate and train for the now and future…”

Caroline Lucas MP, co-chair of the cross-party IPPR Environmental Justice Commission, said:

“The jurors have provided a clear picture of the future of Aberdeenshire, both city and shire, and also of the path we need to take to get there. Their vision for change builds upon the many assets of the area – from ports, harbours and nature rich land to the skills, talents and expertise of the people who live and work in Aberdeenshire.”

“The jury’s conclusions show the need for urgent action to deliver a rapid and fair transition, demonstrating the opportunity to improve economic and social justice at the same time as tackling the climate and nature emergencies.”

Russell Gunson, IPPR Scotland director, said:

“This citizens’ jury is an important way to give the people of the North East a voice in the green transition and policymakers would be wise to heed to their recommendations.

“This is a moment of change for the country, and in particular Aberdeenshire, where major industries will be affected as we move to a net-zero economy. But we know that we can create more than enough well-paid green jobs to make up for any losses in carbon-heavy sectors.

Becca Massey-Chase, deputy head of IPPR’s Environmental Justice Commission said:

“Moving away from the oil and gas industry to a greener future will pose huge challenges for communities in the North East and across Scotland. That is why these communities must be at the heart of plans to manage this transition.

“The UK and Scottish governments must work together with communities to build a plan owned by people in the North East to deliver a stronger long-term future for workers, communities and the economy as a whole.”

Russell Gunson, Becca Massey-Chase and some members of the jury are available for interview

CONTACT

Robin Harvey, Digital and Media Officer: 07779 204798 r.harvey@ippr.org

NOTES TO EDITORS

The report Aberdeenshire Climate and Fairness Panel: Briefing and juror recommendations by the jury and IPPR, is available for download at: http://www.ippr.org/research/publications/citizens-jury-aberdeenshire

A video featuring the jurors explaining their proposals is available on request.

The IPPR Environmental Justice Commission is co-chaired by Hilary Benn MP, Laura Sandys and Caroline Lucas MP, from the Labour, Conservative and Green parties. Find out more: https://www.ippr.org/environment-and-justice

The Aberdeenshire Climate and Fairness Panel was commissioned by the Environmental Justice Commission to examine the question: “What practical steps should we take together in Aberdeenshire to address the climate crisis and restore nature in a way that is fair for everyone?” The recommendations of the panel will be presented to local politicians and decision-makers and submitted to the major national cross-party commission. Further citizen juries have been held in Thurrock, Tees Valley and the South Wales Valleys.

Other proposals produced by the jury include:

  • Establishing a panel of experts to give the government guidance on tackling the climate and nature emergencies, learning from how experts have been used in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. These experts should come from a broad range of specialisms, including science and economics. A panel of citizens should also be established to give the government guidance on tackling the climate and nature emergencies, learning from processes like this citizens’ jury.
  • Developing a fair tax system that disincentivises activities that exacerbate the climate and nature crises and taxes those having the greatest impact and are most able to pay, without causing harm to those individuals and businesses less able to pay.
  • Incentivising activities necessary to address the climate crisis and restore nature by reducing tax on key products and activities, and by providing interest free-loans and grants.
  • Preventing the use of public money on projects or activities that do not address the climate crisis and restore nature - transparently justify how public investment contributes to achieving climate and nature targets.
  • Introducing mandatory and standardised education on nature across the UK from a young age. Teachers need to be equipped with the knowledge and skills to teach this.
  • Reforming planning regulations to prioritise environmental impacts.
  • Using procurement to promote renewable businesses that encourage design, engineering and manufacturing that is local or UK-based and award contracts that are not based solely on price.
  • Adopting a ‘minimum income guarantee’ to ensure everyone, whether in or out of work, has enough to live on.

IPPR is the UK’s pre-eminent progressive think tank. With more than 40 staff in offices in London, Manchester, Newcastle and Edinburgh, IPPR is Britain’s only national think tank with a truly national presence. www.ippr.org

Original article link: https://www.ippr.org/news-and-media/press-releases/make-aberdeenshire-a-european-renewable-energy-centre-of-excellence-urges-locals-in-climate-citizens-jury

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