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.


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.

Retired Ptolemais lignite plant in Greece

The retired Ptolemais lignite plant and the Ptolemais open cast mine in Western Macedonia. Photo: Lea Vranicar, WWF Germany


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’.

Project information

Updated: August 2021

Countries: Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Poland

Project duration: 10/17 - 02/20

Funding: 659,418 €

Target groups: Cities, towns and municipalities, Civil Society, Journalists, Labor Unions, NGOs, Regional governments

Implementing organisation:
WWF Germany

Project Partners:
WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme, WWF Greece, WWF Poland


Contact Person

Ms Juliette de Grandpré

Organisation: WWF Germany


Reinhardtstrasse 18
10117 Berlin

Email: juliette.degrandprewwf.de

Tel: +49 30 311 777 213


This project is part of the European Climate Initiative (EUKI). EUKI is a project financing instrument by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK). The EUKI call for project ideas is implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH. It is the overarching goal of the EUKI to foster climate cooperation within the European Union (EU) in order to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.


European Climate Initiative (EUKI)
Potsdamer Platz 10
10785 Berlin – Germany

Tel.: +49 (0)30 338424 570