‘Just transition to net zero’: UHI Shetland’s first policy brief published

In a first for UHI Shetland, the Marine Spatial Planning team at UHI Shetland have recently published the first policy briefing in a series set to inform decision makers and stakeholders on current issues and research within Scotland’s marine environment.

The brief entitled " Just transition to net zero: creating a process that fully accounts for social justice” is available to download from the MSP pages of UHI Shetland’s website. 

The briefing presents opportunities for justice to be achieved across the three justice principles (distributional, procedural and recognitional justice) and highlights the need for an improved transition process from fossil fuels to marine renewable energy.

By focusing on marine energy production and the impacts on the Scottish fisheries sector, this research examined how fisheries are included within planning and licensing, whose views are considered, and who will benefit and who will be impacted, during energy generation at sea.

Dr Inne Withouck, researcher on the project said:

“A key outcome of this research is that inclusion of fisheries interests in energy decision making has increased over time, but barriers to engagement such as time constraints were identified, especially for small-scale fisheries. These results can be used to improve future energy decision making so that urgent changes needed in our energy system can take place in an inclusive way.”

Current Scottish Government just transition documentation focuses on a just outcome for all (termed distributive justice), concentrating on energy consumption, rather than energy generation.

To ensure a Just Transition, the process of energy transitions must be fully recognised by all parties involved” explains Dr Rachel Shucksmith, Marine Spatial Planning Manager at UHI Shetland “If we become too focused on policy outcomes opportunities to engage and minimise impacts on other users will be lost. This is also relevant to wider management challenges, marine and land processes, and areas of policy development.”

The initial research was conducted by Dr Inne Withouck at UHI Shetland and funded as part of the Bryden Centre, which was supported by the European Union’s Interreg VA programme, managed by the EU programmes Body (SEUPB).  The full research article is published in the Energy Research & Social Science journal. Dr Inne Withouck was supervised by Dr Rachel Shucksmith and Dr Beth Mouat at UHI Shetland, Dr Paul Tett at SAMS UHI and Dr John Doran at the Letterkenny Institute.