by Anelia Stefanova
Bankwatch has just published a third assessment of the Territorial Just Transition Plan writing process in seven countries in the CEE region, finding limited progress since the last time it checked.
Read the briefing here.
With EU countries currently producing Territorial Just Transition plans for their coal regions, required in order to access the Just Transition Fund worth 17.5 billion euros, Bankwatch has been issuing periodic assessments of how countries in CEE – Bulgaria, Czechia, Hungary, Estonia, Poland, Romania and Slovakia – are faring in the process.
The third assessment, published in July 2021, compares how much the countries have progressed on improving participation in the planning process as well as whether they tightened their commitments to decarbonisation.
There has been little improvement when Bankwatch compared the status of the local participation and understanding of the process today with the situation three months ago.
In Bulgaria there is still no meaningful engagement in the process from the local people and there is a poor flow of information. In the Czechia, there is poor local participation and understanding of the process, with information not actively promoted to the affected groups and big players dominating the planning. There is a similar situation in Estonia, although the government is trying to cover the real situation by preparing high profile events. In Hungary, which used to be completely closed to the grassroots, things have improved, with the voice of some NGOs now heard – however, the local communities are still outside the process. In Romania the status has not changed since the last assessment, and local participation and understanding of the process is not ensured. In Poland, interest in the subject is growing, but there is still no widespread involvement, with the exception of Eastern Wielkopolska where the locals were included from the start. For Slovakia, the news is optimistic: the process has followed the steps and deadlines as designed, and the engagement of youth in the transition via online discisions kicked off in May 2021.
While some improvements are visible in most countries since the last assessment, Bankwatch concludes that the application of the partnership principle is far from optimal. A main concern is the lack of meaningful engagement from the local people and the poor flow of information towards them. Lack of local ownership could put the success of the just transition process at stake. Bankwatch expects that the European Commission and national governments improve the transparency, awareness raising and public involvement in the TJTP drafting, and gives concrete recommendations about how this should be done.
Countries in the region are thankfully starting to set coal phaseout dates, though not all: Bulgaria and Czechia have made no final announcements, while Romania has said 2032 will be the date it ends using hard coal (but the economy is more dependent on lignite). Slovakia will put an end to coal subsidies in 2023, Hungary wants to phase out coal from energy production by 2030, while the Polish government wants to wait as late as 2049 (though Eastern Wielkopolska declared its own, regional, phaseout date, which is 2030 for coal in power production). Estonia wants to end shale oil production altogether by 2040.
While setting coal phaseout dates is not a requirement for Territorial Plans, Bankwatch strongly emphasises the need to have a date agreed on by stakeholders, as planning without this landmark is very difficult.
Moreover, Territorial Plans need to include clear estimates of how the measures will contribute to carbon emissions, taking into account the EU target of 55 percent reduction in GHG by 2030. Governments cannot simply rely on current NECPs (national energy and climate plans), which were written with a 40 percent GHG reduction target.
Following this third assessment, Bankwatch notes that many governments in the region continue to lack ambition when it comes to committing to the end of coal and transforming economies.
But transition away from coal is already happening in many countries, mainly due to economic viability issues of the industry. Workers’ requalification, youth migration, diversification of the local business environment are therefore imminent challenges that need to be addressed as soon as possible, together with the local communities, to ensure that EU resources available are used properly and the long-term sustainability of regions is ensured.
Photo by Katerina Davidova.