On January 31st, the Bulgarian parliament set our country’s energy policy back by 70 years by demanding from the government to preserve the domestic coal industry and guarantee its current state beyond 2030. Ruling and opposition parties represented in the parliament joined forces in asking the government to give TPP Maritsa Iztok 2 another financial injection.
At the same time, the parliament finally supported the participation of Bulgaria in the Coal Regions in Transition Platform, established by the European Commission in 2017 to support fossil-fuel dependent regions across the continent move towards a low-carbon economy.
Seemingly unaware of the paradox, Bulgarian parliamentarians requested that Bulgaria’s participation in the Platform be conditioned on the country continuing to operate its coal power plants. This, however, is counter to the entire logic of the Platform, whose purpose is precisely to support regions which are planning their post-coal futures.
Bulgarian parliamentarians might imagine that they can have their cake and eat it too, but that’s not really the case.
As exemplified by the European Green Deal announced in Brussels at the end of last year, the new European Commission is determined to put the EU on a coal-free path, and the Platform is one of the instruments used in this direction. The EU is also making money available via the Just Transition Mechanism and the Clean Energy Package for all Europeans.
But this is money for those in Europe who are ready to move in the decarbonisation direction. Despite what the Bulgarian parliamentarians might be imagining, Bulgaria will not be able to tap into those resources unless it takes transition seriously.
Whilst in many coal regions in the EU the diversification of the local economy is already being planned, Bulgarian coal regions have not yet even begun a debate about a transition away from fossil fuels. Instead of discussing the constructive use of the funds made available via the Just Transition Mechanism, Bulgarian politicians continue to talk about keeping the Maritza East coal complex artificially alive, even at the cost of Bulgaria’s future.
Regardless of the decision of the parliament, economic reason requires Bulgaria to stop sinking millions in the salvation of an outdated industry, whose end is inevitable. Instead, the government should take advantage of the enormous opportunities being offered currently by the EU for those who are willing to do the hard work of transition.
NGOs Za Zemiata and Greenpeace are calling for the drawing up of a national vision for the transition beyond coal in Bulgaria, with the participation of government, local authorities, workers’ representatives, businesses, NGOs and citizens, in a public and inclusive process. The active participation of Pernik and Bobov Dol municipalities, and of the region of the Marishka Coal Basin, is mandatory.