WHY A TRANSITION TO JUSTICE?
Ending fossil fuels won’t protect local communities and workers by default—either in Scotland or around the world. Our economy is broken and rigged, and the new fossil free economy we build has to be different.
We live in a world defined by inequality. The 26 richest people in the world own the same as the 3.8 billion poorest and the wealth of the world’s billionaires is increasing by $2.5 billion a day. In Scotland the richest 1% own more wealth than the bottom 50% and land inequality is some of the worst in the world with just 1,125 land-owners owning 70% of Scotland’s rural land. In Scotland’s cities the poorest suffer most from urban air pollution, which contributes to 2,500 early deaths every year.
These inequalities are not an accident. Corporations and the super rich spend their time protecting their interests, profiting from them, and acquiring more and more. Our global neoliberal economic system advances the rights of the already wealthy, who control the economy—and our lives—to an extreme extent.
Climate change fans the flames of this inequality. Countries in the global south are disproportionately affected by rising sea levels, extreme weather, flooding, drought and the spread of disease. When the poor try to flee these conditions they face lethally dangerous border controls while the rich are granted global freedom of movement. The wealthy, who have disproportionately contributed to this crisis, are leaving the poorest to face the worst impacts.
Against this backdrop we see the advance of a fascistic prescription for tackling environmental chaos: blame the problem on the poor, insist on population controls, close our borders and build up the walls. The agenda of the right shows in clear view the way the world will be if climate justice does not prevail.
As we seek to protect our climate we must find ways to redistribute wealth and power. As citizens of the global north, acknowledging and remedying the impact of colonial and neoliberal policies on the global poor must be part of our struggle for climate justice.
In Scotland itself, a just transition must empower communities and workers, not big oil. During the oil industry downturn in 2015, Scottish oil companies laid off thousands of workers driving people into foodbanks. INEOS boss Jim Ratcliffe has squashed workers rights in Grangemouth. The UK and Scottish Governments back these actions, handing out tax breaks worth billions, protecting bosses not workers.
It doesn’t have to be this way. In many countries a swift transition away from fossil fuels is being managed by worker, government and community-owned companies, ensuring the new renewable economy is just and fair. If we fight for it we too can have a just transition away from fossil fuels and towards sustainability that protects workers across the global energy supply chain and delivers prosperity and justice to people and planet.