The European Commission is committed to accelerating the transition towards clean energy– a task that requires helping coal producers, who risk losing out as a result of decarbonisation policies.
Coal was at the heart of Europe’s economy for many decades (remember the Coal and Steel Community which later became the European Union?). Today, however, the political landscape has changed and the EU is working on ways to mitigate carbon emissions and meet the climate targets. Reaching the objectives set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement will require transitioning from fossil fuels to substantially more renewable energy in Europe. Phasing coal out of European economies is major shift, with profound implications, both ecological and social. The process will be more difficult for some coal-intensive regions which will have to reinvent themselves.
Those countries have no choice but to embrace change. The very coal industry is in shambles with 54 percent of its plants losing money. What’s more, 97% of the EU’s 619 coal plants will be unprofitable by 2030, according to a report from U.K. nonprofit Carbon Tracker. In other words, the transition is irreversible and non-negotiable. However, 41 regions in 12 Member States are actively mining coal, providing direct employment to about 185,000 citizens. Plus, many coal-fulled plants are still active ― they account for a quarter of all EU electricity production.
While it is easy to quote projections that suggest green industries will create more jobs and economic growth than the declining fossil fuel industries will shed, the communities hit by the coal-job crisis, that tend to be geographically concentrated, need help to figure out their alternative competitive strengths in a decarbonated Europe. This is why the EU Coal Regions in Transition Platform was created. It aims at facilitating the development of projects and long-term strategies in coal regions, kick-starting the transition process and responding to environmental and social challenges.
The initiative was launched on December 11th by Maroš Šefčovič, Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of the Energy Union, Miguel Arias Cañete, Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy and Corina Creţu, Commissioner for Regional Policy. Its task will not be an easy one. But we’ve seen other European regions which have succeeded in making this transition in the past years and decades. While it still raises difficult questions, one thing is sure: if the EU only pressures its economic champions to accelerate the energy transition, it will certainly fail.
This post is also available in: FR (FR)