Just Transition Eastern and Southern Europe
The project has been completed. It developed strategies for transitioning regions in Bulgaria (Southwest Bulgaria) and Poland (Silesia) away from coal mining.
Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Poland
10/17 - 02/20
EU institutions, Media, Local governments, National governments, Civil society, Associations
Juliette de Grandpré
- WWF Danube-Carpathian Program Bulgaria
- WWF Greece
- WWF Poland
If the European Union is to fulfil its obligations from the Paris Agreement and take on the leadership role it aims to hold in global climate policy, it must phase out electricity generation from fossil fuels, especially coal. Comprehensive Just Transition strategies have been devised for individual regions to facilitate a fundamental paradigm shift of this nature. They aim to minimise the hardships for workers and their communities in coal-mining, coal-based power generation and associated industries. At local level, this is to be accomplished via active political and financial support, and the transition will require replacing the current industrial structure with sustainable economic activities.
Based on experience from Greece’s Western Macedonia region, the project developed comprehensive plans for socioeconomic structural change in the regions of Southwest Bulgaria and Silesia. These plans were also influenced by lessons learned from structural change in Germany’s coal regions, which were presented in a study compiled as part of the project.
The project officers put in place a broad-based dialogue process in the affected regions to promote public acceptance for the proposed measures. Local climate activists, trade unions, journalists and civil society organisations were invited to participate, as were relevant decision-makers at regional, national and EU levels. At the same time, the project hosted training courses and dialogue platforms for individual stakeholder groups, enabling them to better participate in this process.
The project also organised study trips for each of the three countries, in which representatives from the private sector, academia and activists met with the local administration to learn about the region’s specific challenges and its experience to date with the just transition. The project organised meetings with representatives from EU institutions, including EU Commissioner Frans Timmermanns. The meetings were used to advocate for the adoption of a Just Transition concept as an integral part of European climate policy.
- Regional Just Transition plans were drawn up in the mining regions of Silesia (Poland) and Southwest Bulgaria with the involvement of trade unions, local administrations, civil society, journalists, EU institutions and national governments. These plans are based on lessons learned from phasing out coal in Western Macedonia and Germany’s Ruhr Valley region.
- The ‘Forum of Mayors on Just Transition’ was established. This dialogue platform is open to mayors in regions affected by the coal phase out. Representatives from 17 municipalities came together for the first time in September 2018 in Kozani (Greece), and then again in September 2019 in Weisswasser (Germany). One outcome of the initiative was the ‘Declaration of Mayors’, initially signed by 53 mayors from the EU and the Western Balkans and handed over to Commissioner Timmermanns in October 2019. Its signatories call for better financial support and a stronger voice for the affected regions in shaping the coal phase-out. The 2020 meeting in Bytom, Poland was organised by the follow-on project ‘Regions Beyond Coal’.
During four study trips to Germany, Greece, Bulgaria and Poland, 108 European stakeholders shared their experiences on coal mining. A total of 239 affected people working in coal regions took part in 8 capacity building workshops. Both measures created an atmosphere of trust and the basis for jointly developing plans for a just transition.
Signatures for a Just Transition
A "Forum of Mayors on Just Transition” was established with 72 mayors from European coal-mining regions signing to a Declaration on Just Transition. It took place in Kozani (Greece) in 2018, in Weisswasser (Germany) 2019, in Bytom and Konin (Poland) in 2020 and 2021. Continuity, Communality and Fairness are the drivers of change urged by EUKI project “Regions and Municipalities for a Just Transition”.