Europe intends to be the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. This green transition requires substantial investments across Europe and aims to be a sustainable one. Nonetheless, challenges are diverse and strong, since many territories are still reliant on carbon-intensive industries.
The European Commission, aware of these difficulties and supporting territories in the transition, introduced a Just Transition Mechanism to address their specific challenges. The Just Transition Mechanism, as a tool, ensures that this green transition is done in a fair way, leaving no one behind. Early this month, the Just Transition Platform within this Just Transition Mechanism was launched.
The Just Transition Platform is a single access point and helpdesk. It provides comprehensive technical and advisory support. There, beneficiaries can find all necessary information about the funds, opportunities, regulatory updates or sector-specific initiatives. In short, it aims to assist EU countries and regions in unlocking the support available through the Just Transition Mechanism. This Platform will build on and expand the work of the already existing Initiative for Coal Regions in Transition. Finally, the Platform will enable bilateral and multilateral exchanges of experience on lessons learnt and best practices from likeminded sectors and actors.
Drawing on the launch of this Just Transition Platform, the European Commission organised the Coal Regions in Transition Virtual Week from the 1st until the 3rd of July. Many interesting sessions took place, summarised in the following paragraphs.
This session introduced the new European policy context: the just transition chapter in the Green Deal, the Just Transition Platform initiative and the EU Multiannual Financial Framework (budget) for 2021-2027. The Covid-19 crisis was taken into consideration since it has reduced quality of life for many and these sectors have been severely impacted, meaning that, now more than ever, this transition should leave no one behind. In fact, the Just Transition Fund ought to support primarily those most affected.
Finally, it was stated that climate neutrality will bring benefits to all: citizens, governments, and the economy. It will pose challenges, but its benefits will be greater. Alongside the transition to an environmentally neutral continent, jobs will grow as well. It is important though for actors to have robust plans and ideas to realise good and necessary ideas with the funds. With all these premises in mind, it is worth noting that the Platform provides a common space for collecting and providing access to resources, activities that prove the different regional strengths, and projects, providing a single crossroads for knowledge.
Renewable energy will open up a whole new paradigm of new opportunities, jobs and investments. The Joint Research Centre presented some estimates from 2018, where the potential for regions when it comes to clean energy was stated to be huge. For example, technical potential for wind, solar and geothermal energy was identified in regions in transition. Regions need to realise the particular potential offered by their natural assets. They concluded by saying that by 2030, up to 315 000 jobs can be created by deploying renewable energy technologies that, compared with the current 200 000 direct jobs in the coal-related activities, promise a huge improvement of the current energy situation.
The potential of and relation between wind and solar power were also addressed in this session. The main points are that these technologies can be easily adapted by regions in transition and that they are the most cost-effective ones. In the case of wind energy, there are already some regions undergoing this transition and some significant local and regional benefits are shown, such as 4 000 real jobs in Poland in the offshore wind supply chain. Solar energy also carries many benefits from a cost perspective, since it will mean a way to access cheaper electricity also for citizens. In addition, this technology is highly job intensive, since it creates many jobs located in the downstream value chain.
Finally, some insights on recommendations were given. For example, it was stated that this crucial moment calls for recovery in areas hit hard by the decline in industries that are no longer competitive. This means that projects are expected to start from a robust foundation, taking advantage of new opportunities and aiming to advance the green recovery quickly.
This session introduced technical assistance activities in the last months, with the possibility of complementing that support with other EU initiatives. 7 regions were supported: Asturias (Spain), Silesia and Małopolska (Poland), Midlands (Ireland), Karlovy Vary (Czech Republic), Megalopolis (Greece), and the Jiu Valley (Romania). Each region received around 100 days of support. The Initiative for Coal Regions in Transition has published their deliverables, since they have been working with each region to outline their profile, the situation of the process and the challenges they are facing.
In Asturias, the sector has been directly impacted by the pandemic. The pandemic has affected the transition plan, and even if the carbon reduction plan was expected for 2030, the change is probably coming sooner than expected. Regions in transition must realise their opportunities based on their roots and natural assets, and in the case of Asturias, this is the sea and wind.
It was also stated that approaches are to be taken in a collective and cooperative way, not by the countries but acting at a more ‘regional’ level. It is necessary to seek alternative opportunities for the renewable sources and be creative. For example, some sectors in the refinery might be interested in green energy, since more vehicles are being manufactured to be used with electricity, and electricity coming from renewable energy sources will be more cost-efficient.
The green transition is a common objective at European, national, regional, and local level. Regions in transition will not walk alone during the process, and all member states will receive support and technical assistance for their own plans.
Check the Just Transition Mechanism
About the Just Transition Platform
About the European Green Deal
Check the programme of the Coal Regions in Transition Virtual Week and their speakers here
Written by Roser Torres, Project Officer at EURADA