As the EU Green Week kicks off in Brussels, EURACTIV takes a closer look at an essential step towards a net zero emission Europe – the transition away from coal.
Armed with the new €17.5 billion-strong Just Transition Fund, the European Commission has pledged to support coal-reliant regions to stop burning this carbon-intensive, air-polluting fossil fuel while preserving livelihoods and pensions.
However, this is easier said than done. As poorer Central and Eastern European countries rush to submit their plans to the EU executive to access the funds, long-standing issues crystallise, such as social acceptance, lacking national know-how, and the perception of an ever-distant Brussels.
Add to this the differences state-owned enterprises and private companies face in decarbonising their power generation, and the simple step out of coal becomes infinitely more complex.
Read EURACTIV’s special report to find out more about how EU countries and institutions are progressing with their pledge to quit coal and implement a just transition.
Domestic politics, bureaucratic turf wars, and prosperous regions resistant to quitting coal remain a serious obstacle to meaningful progress on designing just transition plans, despite the involvement of European Commission-funded consultants, and pressing deadlines.
The European Commission should make sure its decisions remain in line with its climate targets and keep an eye on the social acceptance of the coal transition, stakeholders in Central and Eastern Europe say.
There is a growing disparity in the progress central and eastern Europe's regions have made to transition away from coal, often influenced by how willing the state is to rescue increasingly unviable companies. Some regions are beginning to close polluting mines while others plan to keep them open for decades.
Public consultation is inadequate in the creation of pathways to transition out of coal-burning in Central and Eastern European (CEE) regions, despite being a requirement for the plans that will unlock the €17.5 billion just transition fund, civil society has warned.
Unambitious coal phase-out policies in central and eastern Europe threaten the just transition in the region and the European Commission should only accept plans that use the just transition fund to develop and diversify local economies for a greener future, writes Alexandru Mustață.