Work should start urgently to transform the north east from Scotland’s oil and gas capital into a new European centre of excellence for renewables, a citizens’ panel has demanded.
The group, which was established by the IPPR think tank, has produced a report detailing more than 30 recommendations on how Aberdeen city and shire can make the change.
It calls for a “fair tax system” to be developed which discourages activities known to “exacerbate the climate and nature emergencies”.
The group also wants youngsters across the UK to “learn about nature, climate and the changes they will see in their lifetime within schools”.
Meanwhile workers need to be able to learn the skills required to succeed in new green technologies, the Aberdeenshire Climate and Fairness Panel added, suggesting training academies are created for such jobs.
A series of eight sessions were organised by the IPPR Environmental Justice Commission, allowing the group of 22 locals from Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire – including a student, a carer and oil and gas industry workers – to consider how the region can move towards a low-carbon future.
The report said the “risks of a rapid transition to a zero-carbon economy are great, with more than 10% of total employment in Aberdeenshire currently in the oil and gas industry”.
But while the group said there are “significant challenges” in achieving this, it added there are also “many opportunities ahead to improve people’s quality of life and create a fairer society”.
In the recommendations, the group called for a minimum income guarantee to be adopted to ensure everyone, whether in or out of work, has enough to live on.
It also wants “fair incentives” for farmers to allow them to make “sustainable and nature-friendly improvements”, such as planting more trees, restoring peatland and setting aside space for wildlife.
The Government is urged by the group to work with businesses to “incentivise and encourage action” – with tax changes and regulations being put in place if the response from companies is “too slow”.
The report said: “It should always be more profitable to run businesses that are part of the solution, rather than those that contribute to the problem.
“We should urgently start the transition of Aberdeen from the oil and gas capital to a centre of excellence for renewable energy for Europe.”
Green MP Caroline Lucas, 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.”
A UK Government spokesman said: “Through our landmark North Sea Transition Deal, the UK is the first G7 country to set out plans to back the oil and gas industry‘s orderly transition to a low carbon future, while supporting tens of thousands of jobs.
“We have already committed £27 million for the Aberdeen Energy Transition Zone to transform the area into a green energy hub, and a further £5 million for the Global Underwater Hub to propel Aberdeen to become a global hub for underwater engineering.”
Scottish Government just transition minister Richard Lochhead said: “Our commitment to ending Scotland’s contribution to climate change by 2045 is absolute, as is our commitment to ensuring we do it in a way that is just and leaves no-one behind.
“Communities across the country are uniquely-placed to play a critical role in supporting, shaping and driving forward this transition.
“Scotland’s Climate Assembly exemplifies how we are putting people at the heart of policy making, by consulting, engaging and involving citizens in decision-making – and we welcome this contribution from Aberdeen’s Climate Jury to the national debate.”
IPPR Scotland director Russell Gunson 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.”