European coal regions want to reward polluters rather than exclude them though the support from the Just Transition Fund, concludes an analysis by the World Wildlife Fund. All of the 14 Territorial Just Transition Plans (TJTPs) reviewed, including the Czech one, were affected by deficiencies, WWF said.
The analysis showed that nine out of the 14 TJTPs examined did not commit to ending fossil gas use by 2035, and eight did not anticipate coal and shale oil phase-out by 2030, as WWF pointed out in its press release at the end of September. None of the Plans was in a state where it could be accepted by the European Commission without reservation, the Czech TJTP ending up with average marks as compared to the others.
The transformation of the regions, as described in the TJTPs, should endorse the commitments following from the Paris Agreement. However, this was not the case, as if the Member States still refused to accept that phasing out the fossil fuel industry and respecting the climate goals can be a unique economic stimulus for the localities in question.
“Europe’s most carbon-intensive regions have a unique opportunity to transition to a climate-safe and sustainable future in a socially fair way. The Commission’s duty is to ensure they do not squander it. EU funding must only go to localities which have climate-aligned, sustainable, socially responsible plans in place”, commented Katie Treadwell, Energy Policy Officer at WWF European Policy Office.
Czech Plan lacking a phase-out date
The Czech TJTP was assessed as yellow in the final traffic light rating. Its most serious deficiencies concerned inadequate delivering on the EU climate commitments, decreasing social inequalities and a lack of coordination with private funding sources in the low-carbon transition. Czechia has modified the Plan since, but the new version does not show much improvement in the criticised areas.
The Czech TJTP, whose creation is in the competence of the Ministry of Regional Development, is based on the National Energy and Climate Plan. The document is itself outdated as it does not take into account the more ambitious EU climate goal to reduce carbon emissions by 55% until 2030 as compared to 1990. In its transformation process outline, it does not establish, for instance, the specific way in which the Polluter Pays principle is to be respected, or what exactly the steps towards higher energy efficiency are going to look like.
The weakest point of the Plan is its approach towards fossil fuels. As the Czech Republic still has not fixed a binding coal phase-out deadline, the Plan does not include it, either. The same is true for fossil gas phase-out, or any possibilities to at least stop subsidizing fossil gas through public funds.
Apart from its deficiencies regarding climate commitments, the Plan also failed in the social area, the analysis showed. When it comes to new jobs, it rather operated with their quantity than quality. It did not consider the questions of social inclusion and inequalities and completely failed to recognise the importance of supporting gender equality. These issues have not been resolved in the new version.
Open letter appeal to the European Commission
Based on the analysis and evaluation of the TJTPs, WWF and nine other organisations including the Centre for Transport and Energy sent an open letter to the European Commission at the beginning of September, defining the main shortcomings of the Plans that the Commission should urge the Member States to solve.
In 11 points, the letter calls on the Commission to require alignment with the EU’s climate goals, commitments to a timely fossil fuel phase-out and economic diversification or, for instance, support to SMEs. It also emphasises social issues, the need to address inequalities, take gender equality into account and create quality jobs.
WWF expects that altogether, at least 53 TJTPs will be submitted to the European Commission. Together with other organisations, it calls for a participative preparation of the Plans, meaning that Member States should publicly consult other stakeholders including civil society groups and local residents. Either one national or several region-specific TJTPs are to be submitted.
The EU’s €17.5 billion Just Transition Fund is a financing tool which aims to help coal regions face the negative impacts of coal phase-out and support their overall development. The support is based on the Territorial Just Transition Plans as drafted by Member States. As WWF pointed out, it had idetified deficiencies in all the TJTPs evaluated. The analysis was done using a specifically created assessment tool based on ten criteria, available at WWF’s website.