di Eva Maschietto
The trend to move away from an economy driven by fossil fuels has reached another step: the European Union officially launched on 11 December 2017 a new platform named “Coal Regions in Transition Platform” to facilitate the development of projects and long-term strategies in coal regions.
The aim is to avoid that any region is left behind in the process and that the environmental and social challenges which are being brought by the different stakeholders are faced and dealt with properly and with a support from the European institutions.
What is the background of the initiative?
Within the EU territory, which generally is carbon-intensive, there are 41 regions in 12 Member States that are still actively mining coal. The relevant industry provides direct employment to about 185,000 citizens of the Union: most of them come, in particular, from Poland, Estonia, Germany, Czech Republic, Romania, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Greece, Spain, Slovenia, Hungary and the United Kingdom.
Such numbers are impressive and somehow alarming, also considering that over the past few decades the production and consumption of coal in the EU has been in steady decline and the commitment by a number of Member States to phase out coal use for power generation will accelerate the decline of such industry.
The objective of the Platform for Coal Regions in Transition is that of assisting the regions affected by the decline of the industry in a smoother transition, maintaining growth and jobs for the benefit of the affected populations.
The Platform’s activity would naturally bring together different experiences sharing common issues and peculiarities with a view to creating partnerships (initially the focus will concentrate on coal regions, with the objective of expanding to carbon-intensive regions). It is construed to enhance dialogue on policy frameworks and also to provide means to achieve financing, and it is thought to include training and support on economic diversification and reskilling especially in the deployment of renewable energy technologies, eco-innovation and advanced coal technologies, with a view to relocating the resources and creating new employment opportunities in the energy sector.
Significantly, the launch of the Platform coincided with the “One Planet Summit” organized in the occasion of the second anniversary of the Paris Agreement on climate change by President Macron: at the summit, the Commission reconfirmed its commitment for a forward-looking climate policy, showing that the EU is leading the fight against climate change by example and through action.
Speakers from the Energy Union presenting the Platform at the launch event venue have pointed out that, while with no doubt energy generation from coal is declining all around the world and the trend towards clean power is irreversible, there are some regions which are still extremely dependent on fossils fuels and the transition to clean energy will be more difficult for them.
They have explained that Platform is designed to support, taking concrete actions, those regions with the objective of consenting the exploitation of their areas of competitive strength, facilitating structural innovation and enhancing their “smart specialization assets”. Furthermore, the Platform is construed as a support to the EU Cohesion policy which is already active.
Simultaneously, the Commission is working on a pilot basis with a small number of regions on planning and accelerating the process of economic diversification and technological transition through technical assistance, information exchange and tailored bilateral dialogue on relevant EU funds, programs and financing tools to which the Platform could become a natural complement.
The significance of the Platform and its implication, in our view, is particularly relevant in the current international context which sees the opposite and somehow odd trend of the US. The new administration of the most influential country in the world is now trying a path of progressive detachment from the clean energy transition policy, creating a clear fracture with the EU actions in terms of energy consumption and environmental policy.