A Just Transition: From Fossil Fuels to Environmental Justice

As a society in the developed world — and even as a species — we've told ourselves a series of stories about the world and how it works. We’ve told ourselves that endless consumption fuels endless growth, that boundless energy needs are met and grow with no end in sight. Coal, oil, and gas are extracted with no consequence and with no limit to their bountiful supply.

As we face catastrophic climate change we know this is a story that doesn’t work any more.

However, the alternative story we have been trying to write — that all this will end and we will proceed smoothly into sustainable, low carbon living — doesn’t yet ring true, either. Often the new story is told by people whose own livelihood isn’t reliant on the fossil fuel economy, but whose lifestyle remains dependent on it.

In order to achieve environmental sustainability in the UK, we know that the country’s remaining domestic fossil fuel industry must be closed down. And soon.

However, a number of communities continue to rely on these industries as their economic lifeline. As such, those that call for a low carbon transition must also find ways to convince the government to simultaneously invest in new, greener, jobs within these communities — a process known as a “just transition”. 

This powerful new series starts from the basis of understanding that current lifestyles are dependent on oil and plastic, and that we are all to some degree complicit and integrated into the present system. It looks at how the UK can achieve the immediate, transformative and radical changes to the economy and society necessary to address the climate crisis. And it addresses this transformation through the perspectives of the communities that will be most affected.

Over the series, in articles and in photography and interviews we examine these isues, and the prospects and obstacles to change.

We look at historical examples and legacies of previous transitions from one energy source to another. We talk to people about working conditions in the industries of coal, shale gas, oil and renewables.  We explore the opportunities for new jobs in new clean industries that are emerging in the North Sea and across the country in offshore wind and in hydro-power.

The series is a comprehensive exploration of the UK's prospects for a just transition towards a sustainable future and environmental justice. 

Author: Christopher Silver
Editor: Mike Small
Photography/Videography: Alan McCredie

Image: AJS Production Ltd, Cowdenbeath 

In this series

Maersk drilling rig being towed
Scotland has declared a “climate emergency”, intensifying debates over the future of the North Sea...
By Chris Silver, 14 May, 2019
In a speech in Glasgow on 24 Nov 1946, the renowned wartime Labour Secretary of State for Scotland...
By Chris Silver, 22 Nov, 2018
In a Scotland straining towards a two-thirds cut in emissions by 2030, the behemoth of Grangemouth...
By Chris Silver, 15 Nov, 2018
Few vistas in the country offer such an impressive picture of industriousness as that of Aberdeen...
By Chris Silver, 7 Nov, 2018
The Little Raith Windfarm, which lies between Cowdenbeath and the Mossmorran Petrochemical facility in Fife.
In this first of our new series 'Just Transition, from Fossil Fuels to Environmental Justice', we...
By Chris Silver, 30 Oct, 2018