Scotland aims to be at the forefront of responding to climate change. This will require a transformation in how we live, work and travel over the next few decades. Could this be an opportunity also to reduce inequalities, strengthen social cohesion and build a thriving economy?
The renewable energy and low carbon sector is one of Scotland’s most important, with over £5.7billion turnover and involving 24,000 full time equivalent jobs in 2016 (ONS, 2018).
The Scottish Government wants to see more local economic and social benefit from the renewable energy and low carbon revolution. For example, ensuring financial investments are retained and recycled locally to support communities and local infrastructure, the health and wellbeing from cleaner air in urban places, the reduction in fuel poverty from well-insulated buildings.
Scotland’s focus on developing a thriving renewable energy and low carbon sector was driven strongly by an interest in developing economic benefit for Scotland, specifically increasing flows of inward investment and jobs.
Now this is being complemented by a focus on inclusive growth, to ensure all parts of society benefit from the energy transition, as a core pillar of Scotland’s Economy Strategy. This requires further developing a skilled local workforce and thereby increasing local employment opportunities.
40% of jobs in this sector are currently involved in supply and fitting of energy efficient products.
Climate change impacts and policies to reduce emissions are not being - and will not be - felt equally across Scotland and across the world. Poor and marginalised people tend to suffer the worst climate impacts.
At the same time, policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions should not impact negatively on already vulnerable groups. For example:
- Do policies to increase renewable electricity worsen levels of fuel poverty?
- Do plans for zero emission vehicles reduce access to affordable transport?
- What happens to the oil and gas workforce in Scotland during the transition?
Our research looks for solutions across traditional research and policy divides. A key aim is to identify how to realise co-benefits in addition to the immediate climate impact.
As a new policy area, local energy has been a key area requiring an emerging knowledge base. Our research looks at the characteristics of successful local energy projects; finance mechanisms; and distribution of local social, economic and environmental benefits to target policy at what works.
From our base at Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation (ECCI) we have close links with innovation – both in taking innovative project ideas to fruition and in supporting and accelerating early stage businesses - across the low carbon sector.
At ClimateXChange, we evaluate innovative energy projects and explore financing for the growing sector, including how to develop and attract the best talent.
By assessing the impact of interventions on different groups, we make recommendations for how policies can be designed to compensate for potential negative impacts, and to maximise the benefits of policies and regulations designed to support the low carbon transition.