It’s a critical time for energy transitions: on one side, “code red” lights up for net-zero targets; on the other side, some EU member states call for a smoother phase-out of coal to compensate for the shortage of fossil gas and high energy prices caused by the Russian war on Ukraine.
Truth is, a higher share of renewable energy correlates positively with lower energy prices: more efficient households and electrification of heat supply have provided an important buffer for some consumers. However, in coal-dependent economies energy transition means much more than switching to solar panels and wind turbines.
When coal is king, energy transition plans may challenge the social ecosystem: if they fail to consider local factors, they may cause higher unemployment rates, aggravated energy poverty, and economic migration.
Leaving no one behind
Just energy transitions must put people and communities at the center of the transformation. Regional plans must address the drivers of energy poverty and observe the needs and fears of coal workers, the youth, and overall population, so that they won’t be cast aside by a greener economy.
The JUSTEM project will address a wide range of transition-related issues that go beyond the purely technical aspects and include health, structural development, re-training of workers, and new economic opportunities.
Following a double-sided approach, JUSTEM will help regional authorities to develop plans that are sensitive to local impacts, while engaging citizens in capacity building activities tailored to increase acceptance and build confidence on a coal-free economy.
We need everyone on board to make Europe climate-neutral. Let’s make room for successful transition plans and empowered citizens.