by Václava Marková (Centre for Transport and Energy)
At the beginning of June, the Territorial Just Transition Plan for the Karlovy Vary region was finally presented to the public. It was the first public consultation on the Just Transition Plans that are being developed in the Czech coal regions and a first step towards significant public participation, which has so far been altogether lacking in the Czech just transition planning process.
The online meeting, attended by 82 people from the general public and representatives of NGOs, cities and municipalities, was held on June 7.
During the presentation, the Deputy Governor of the Karlovy Vary Region, Vojtěch Franta (the Czech Pirate Party), who is in charge of the region’s transformation, presented the Just Transition Mechanism, the Just Transition Fund and the vision of the Karlovy Vary region. He also announced that the municipality was currently preparing activities that should enable significant public participation.
“We realize that participation should be part of the just transition. To provide a just transformation, it is necessary for almost everyone in the Karlovy Vary region to know about it. Not only selected interest groups or NGOs should be involved, but the general public should know about it as well,” Franta said.
The officials of Karlovy Vary region aim to involve citizens in the plan development and in the transformation of the region in the following years, Franta promised. An interactive web platform is expected to be launched soon to offer the opportunity to participate in debates virtually. And experts are now preparing a marketing strategy to help with communication the just transition topic to targeted groups as well as the general public.
According to Franta, the regional authorities are planning another meeting with the public, but specific dates are not yet known.
The latest version of the plan and other published information is now available on the website of the Regional Permanent Conference of the Karlovy Vary Region (Regionální stálá konference Karlovarského kraje).
The Transition Agency (Transformační agentura), one of the strategic projects of the region, is envisaged to become a key institution for the process of just transition, in terms of assistance with project preparation and citizen participation.
“We are aware of the fact that the Karlovy Vary region has not been able to meet the challenges of using operational programs for a long time. As a territory, we are not able to take advantage of the opportunities we have,” said the Franta said.
The Transition Agency represents a so-called “no regret” project for the region and needs to be implemented regardless of whether the region receives a grant for it or not, said Franta. “To a minimal extent, we would run the Transition agency anyway. It is necessary that there is an organization that will provide this service for the region,” he added.
The lack of participation in the process of just transition in the Czech Republic is an issue that NGOs have been pointing out for a long time. In Karlovy Vary region, the representatives of local initiatives and environmental organisations presented a concrete vision of the participatory process to the regional government. Specifically, they proposed to include participation into the Territorial Just Transition Plan as a specific target into one of its areas of support.
“We know that participation is not a cheap or easy process. It can’t be done for free. That is a reason why we would like resources to be allocated specifically for participation so it could be done properly,” Zdeňka Brožová, a chairwoman of the Chebsko za klima organisation, explained. Whether the participation becomes a specific target of the plan or not is currently a subject of negotiations between the region, the Ministry of the Environment and NGOs.
“The role of local communities, associations and active citizens is crucial for a successful just transition. Their participation in the Karlovy Vary region is a good first step. However, it is not a victory. We will see during the next months whether citizen participation will be set up successfully or not and whether the region will be able to fully benefit from the potential of citizens’ involvement in creating a vision for the region,” commented Kristina Zindulková from the Center for Transport and Energy.
The Karlovy Vary Region is the first of three Czech coal regions that held public consultation on their Just Transition Plan. Neither the Moravian-Silesian nor the Ústí nad Labem Region have yet carried out any public discussion of their plans or visions for a just transition.