Research Projects

Research Excellence

Delivering a just transition to a low-carbon economy

Research Projects

The Just Transition Lab is engaged in multiple research projects in partnership policy-makers, industry and government aimed at delivering a just transition to a low- carbon economy. Current projects include:

Advancing Community Climate Deliberative Participatory Democracy within the North East Scotland
  • Funder: Scottish Government Just Transition Fund for North East and Moray
  • Status: Completed (November 2022-May 2023)
  • Project lead: Tavis Potts
  • Project team: Keith Bender, John Bone, Daria Shapovalova, Paul Dargie, Maren Mitchell
  • Project summary: This project addressed the question of how communities can be involved in and help to drive the process of designing, creating and delivering a Just Transition.  It delivered a pilot for a program of community-level climate-focused democratic participation that incorporated emerging good practice from all over the world; and can be adapted to reach different communities; and which, in subsequent years, can be implemented across the North East, Scotland and globally.  We plan to continue to develop a community of practice around participatory democracy and to enthuse those who can take the concept further and embed it in public sector decision-making. We will continue to work with communities to develop and take forward recommendations and action plans from the climate assemblies and other processes to ensure tangible beneficial outcomes in order to build trust and encourage climate action within communities. The programme of research will provide an avenue for engaging with other key regional stakeholders such as business leaders, who will be key to a just transition and opportunities for community wealth building.
Transitions in an Energy City: The Role of Civil Society in Securing a Just Transition in Aberdeen
  • Funder: Pump Priming Fund, University of Aberdeen
  • Status: Ongoing (July 2022 – November 2022)
  • Project lead: Tavis Potts
  • Project team: John Bone, Tavis Potts, Camilla Seeland, Daria Shapovalova
  • Project summary: Following the 2014 downturn of the oil and gas industry and exacerbated by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, a Net Zero transition is an opportunity for Aberdeen and the Northeast of Scotland to ‘reinvent itself’. There is an evidence gap on how civil society organisations in energy cities respond to energy transition, particularly in context of broader economic restructuring around Net Zero. This project explores the perspectives and mechanisms for civil society to engage with and enact a just transition in Aberdeen. It combines a rapid evidence review with key informant interviews targeting Aberdeen’s’ community sector with the aim to deliver the initial knowledge base of just transition in Aberdeen and frame future research on transitions in energy cities.
  • Outputs:
    • forthcoming
A Just Transition for Workers and Communities in the North-East of Scotland
  • Funder: Uplift
  • Status: Ongoing (July 2022 – October 2023)
  • Project lead: Daria Shapovalova
  • Project team: Keith Bender, John Bone, Tavis Potts.
  • Project summary:
    The North-East of Scotland is at the forefront of the energy transition processes in the UK. With the transformation of the UK’s energy sector and the integration of climate goals into the energy decision-making, lives of communities and workers in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire are directly affected by changes in the labour market and new energy and climate policies. This project will identify and analyse the relevant literature and socio-economic data; use participatory research to develop regional ‘just transition’ indicators and scenarios; testing the existing policies against these indicators and scenarios. Researchers from social science, geography, law, and economics will engage with the local stakeholders and civil society to deliver an impactful evidence base for defining and measuring ‘just transition’ in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire


Just Energy Transition in Scotland and the Arctic: Managing Environmental and Social Impacts of Low-Carbon Energy Projects
  • Funder: Scottish Government Arctic Connections Fund
  • Status: Completed (November 2021 – March 2022)
  • Project lead: Daria Shapovalova
  • Project team: Dorotheè Cambou (Law, University of Helsinki), Kirsten Jenkins (Geography, University of Edinburgh), Rachael Johnstone (Law, University of Akureyri/University of Greenland), Christina Hoicka (Geography, University of Victoria), Mary Gilmore-Maurer (Law, University of Aberdeen), Tavis Potts (Geography, University of Aberdeen), Øyvind Ravna (Law, Arctic University of Tromsø).
  • Project summary: Transforming our energy systems is essential to meeting climate goals. Low-carbon energy projects can have significant impacts on environments, communities and wildlife, amplified in the Arctic due to remoteness, importance of sites and habitats for Indigenous Peoples, and increased vulnerability to climate change. In Scotland, ‘Just Transition’ principles, integrated in climate legislation, aim to reduce injustices during the fossil fuel phase-out and renewable energy deployment. This identifies the main challenges and opportunities in optimising regulation to achieve a just energy transition in Scotland and the Arctic and thereby exchange knowledge, experience and best practice.
  • Outputs:
Community Participation in a Just Transition to Net Zero

  • Funder: Scottish Universities Insight Institute 
  • Status: Completed. March 2021-May 2022
  • Project lead: Tavis Potts 
  • Project team: Dr Rebecca Ford (University of Strathclyde), Dr David Toke (University of Aberdeen), Ms Alison Stuart (Aberdeen Climate Action)
  • Project summary: The Northeast of Scotland is transitioning towards a low carbon future. In line with Scottish targets to achieve Net Zero, the North-East is repositioning itself as a hub for ‘energy transition’. With the region home to global energy companies, the narrative on energy transition is often framed within an industrial and technological context, yet there is a need for a community-oriented perspective that discusses a range of social values and technical approaches. 
  • This project will help build a stronger consensus about the vision and pathways for civil society to progress a just transition in the Northeast. As the energy landscape shifts the impacts will be felt most keenly in communities. Hence it will bring together diverse civil society, academic, policy and business stakeholders across three interactive workshops to:
    • 1. Examine concepts and advances in just transition and how they can be practically applied to North East communities.
    • 2. Identify the narratives and values on just transition by communities and how these interplay with the wider energy system and can drive genuine change.
    • 3. Enhance community agency in the energy system and create a platform for both behavioural and policy change to achieve net zero.
  • Outputs:
The skills ecosystem for subsurface Net Zero technologies and principles for a just transition
  • Funder: Royal Society of Edinburgh SAPHIRE
  • Status: Ongoing (June 2022 - ) 
  • Project lead: Dr Jen Roberts (University of Strathclyde)
  • Project team: Prof Tavis Potts, Prof Clare Bond (University of Aberdeen); Dr Pauline Anderson, Dr Gareth Johnson, Rachel Bray (University of Strathclyde).
  • Project summary: The Royal Society of Edinburgh SAPHIRE-funded partnership will focus on understanding the skills ecosystem for ‘subsurface Net Zero technologies’ (SNZTs) and principles of a just transition in NE Scotland (Aberdeen region) and W Australia (Perth region). Through research scoping activities, collaborative workshops, and researcher engagement, the project will bring together geoscientists with specialist knowledge of SNZTs and social scientists with specialist knowledge of skills ecosystems, strategy, economics, social acceptance and just transitions to:
    • 1.    Develop and share understanding of the ‘map’ of:
      • a.    the current skills ecosystem in Scotland and Australia - with a focus on NE Scotland (Aberdeen region) and W Australia (Perth region), and current challenges.
      • b.    the future skills ecosystem.
    • 2.    Explore pathways for transition, and identify key issues of justice, and key research needs to understand future skills ecosystem and strategies for a Just Transition. 
    • 3.    Identify current and future funding routes and horizon  scanning, and develop targeted collaborative research proposals.
  • Outputs:
    • Three workshops over the 2nd half of 2022
    • Report forthcoming 
Understanding social values on low carbon sub-surface technologies in Scotland and Northern Ireland (PhD)
  • Funder: QUADRAT 
  • Status: Begins October 2022 
  • Project lead: Tavis Potts
  • Project team: Clare Bond, Wes Flannery (Queens University Belfast) 
  • Project summary: Central to achieve Net Zero, is the need to secure safe, efficient and cost-effective geological storage, or use, of carbon (CCUS). Models of future carbon emissions in the IPPC 2018 special report show that CCUS is required to meet carbon reduction targets. Carbon storage alongside hydrogen production and other subsurface technologies are key to achieving Net Zero targets (CCC2019) yet non-technical factors are equally, if not more, important for successful delivery. Societal acceptance is a significant factor in determining the success of subsurface technologies and a determinant of a social licence to operate, yet a major evidence gap exists on values at regional scales and specific to emerging technologies.

    This project intends to map for the first time the level of public understanding and social acceptance of CCUS and allied technologies such as hydrogen production and low carbon power generation in two contrasting UK regions.  Within these sites we propose to examine and map the social licence values of carbon capture and storage (CCUS), geological storage for energy and hydrogen production as low carbon technologies of regional interest at early stages of development.  
  • Outputs:
    • forthcoming
Valuing Marine Biodiversity for Use in Decision Making (ValMab-DM)
  • Funder: UKRI 
  • Status: Ongoing (June 2022 - ) 
  • Project lead: Tavis Potts (Co-PI) Nicola Beaumont (Plymouth Marine Laboratory) 
  • Project team: Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML), Centre for Blue Governance
  • of the University of Portsmouth; eftec; Daryl Burdon Ltd; Solent Forum, Moray Firth Coastal Partnership and Coastal Partnership Network.
  • Project summary: To determine novel and policy relevant pluralistic values for marine
  • biodiversity and apply these values to co-develop green investment options, leading to a transformative shift in our understanding and utilisation of the economics of biodiversity in the context of achieving a Just Transition to Net Zero. Research objectives are: 
    • 1.    Quantify the linkages between marine biodiversity, natural capital, and ecosystem services, taking quantity (extent), quality (condition), and resilience into consideration.
    • 2.   Determine the economic and social values associated with carbon sequestration and bioremediation of waste and apply these values to support natural capital accounting frameworks and engage communities in mapping social values and trade-offs.
    • 3.    Connect the ecological, economic, and social values of biodiversity to decision-making through co-design and implementation of green investment to support a nature positive net zero future. 
  • Outputs:
    • ​​​​​​​forthcoming