What do we know about how to accelerate just transitions in coal and carbon-intensive regions? Lessons from the European Sustainable Energy Week



Consumers and behavioural change


From the 20-22 of June, the European Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) 2023 took place in Brussels and online. The JUSTEM project was represented by its coordinator, Diana Süsser, who moderated the Policy Session on “Accelerating Just Transitions in Coal and Carbon-intensive Regions“.

The online session had the aim to discuss critical social tipping points and policy intervention needed to enable just transitions.

Representatives from three EU-funded research projects, Tipping+, ENTRANCES and CINTRAN, presented their key results regarding the structural changes in coal and carbon intensive regions and the challenges encountering when implementing just transition plans.

Ricardo Garcia Mira from the University of A Coruna stressed that engineering the energy transition is not enough, but social aspects should be considered. He argued that the success of energy transition policies depends on the transformative capacity of the Coal+ Regions in Transition, and thus, it requires empowered citizen and communities and a broader regional perspective in the decision-making.

Carsten Rothballer from ICLEI talked about three major coping strategies of people: resistance, adaptation and transformation. He emphasised that coping strategies that support just transitions must be co-developed and meaningfully implemented through inclusive collaboration and deliberation, create new economies that distribute the benefits of economic activity more widely than in the current system, and allow people options to develop news skills and opportunities while being supported financially.

Serafeim Michas from the TEESlab, University of Piraeus presented the case of Megalopolis and how current projects in the pipeline might be a lost opportunity for the region. He emphasised that instead of supplying free of charge natural gas boilers to households and constructing a new natural gas distribution network, a green rebranding with renewable energy and energy efficiency measures can not only halve the final household energy consumption but also save households money.

Serafeim Michas presents the key policy messages from Megalopolis, Greece.

Balbina Gluza-Czyczerska from DG REGIO of the European Commission presented the Just Transition Platform and the different opportunities for region to be engaged and receive technical support for just transitions on the ground. She stressed that the Fund is not only about reskilling and upskilling, but also about the diversification of the economy and the development of projects that address different regional challenges and involve different stakeholders from local to national levels.

Balbina Gluza-Czyczerska presents the Just Transition Platform (screenshot from the event).

In an open panel debate, Balbina Gluza-Czyczerska from DG REGIO, Miłosława (Miłka) Stępień from the Central and Eastern Europe Bankwatch Network and Corinna Zierold from IndustriAll Europe, discussed not only the research findings but also questions by the audience.

Panel discussion with Miłosława (Miłka) Stępień (on the right) (screenshot from the event).

Lessons of the discussion from research, policy and practice were:

  • Communities and the citizens should be included in the process of designing the just transition plans to increase trust and faith in the transition process. For this to happen, stakeholders from local to European governance levels must work together.
  • Youth must be better engaged in the local decision-making, e.g. through youth organisations.
  • Energy communities can be one mean to create local benefits and contribute to tackle negative transition effects. However, a strong legal framework is needed, a better communication of the benefits, and cultural and financial barriers must be overcome to support citizens and communities.
  • The labour force of the regions must be mapped to understand not only job losses and potential gains but also the quality and stability of future jobs. The lack of qualified workers must be tackled.
  • Supportive policies and skill strategies are needed to bring women in the energy sector, increase their voices in decision-making and address the shortage of workers. Gender and migration issues must be better reflected in territorial just transition plans.
  • Workers and trade unions must be involved in the dialogues to better manage the transformations in the workforce and enable job-to-job transitions.
  • Capacity building and education are crucial for introducing transformative change at the regional and local levels.
  • Current injustice must be addressed to ensure that they are not continued, or repeated. Policies must address all classes of society to encounter increasing energy poverty and take them on the transition journey.

“The discussion has highlighted the need for a fair and inclusive transition process, that addresses the social and economic challenges of the regions holistically and effectively and builds capacities among decision-makers and affected citizens and communities to actively shape the transition process”, concludes Diana Süsser, IEECP.

Did you miss the event? Then, you can watch the recording here:


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