WWF took an in-depth look at the clean job creation potential in several coal regions in its latest report finding that although a successful just transition is a complex procedure, if done right, it can have a net benefit on these regions in terms of employment, the economy and the environment.
Due to the dropping costs of wind and solar power, the inefficiency of the mining process and EU and national climate policy, coal phase-out is already well underway. However, closing a coal mine or a plant has consequences on the people employed there, their families, the wider community and the economy of the region.
The so-called just transition requires a lot of up-front investment and the retraining of former coal workers to create new economic opportunities. The European Commission has set up a 17.5 billion euros Just Transition Fund to help support the social impacts of the shift from coal. As the report states, the Fund – and its sister schemes under the Just Transition Mechanism, in combination with the right national and private funds present a huge opportunity to shift to a durable, climate-neutral economy. To access the fund, coal and other industrialised regions must draw up a plan, which is submitted by their government to the EU Commission.
To better understand what is at stake WWF analysed the clean job creation potential in the coal regions of Silesia and Eastern Wielkopolska in Poland; Western Macedonia and Megalopolis in Greece, the Pernik and Bobov Dol regions of South-Western Bulgaria and made recommendations for the biggest Bulgarian coal region Stara Zagora.
The report found that in fact in Europe’s coal heartlands, job numbers in mining are falling and many thousands more are at risk. In Silesia, Poland, 15,000 to 18,000 workers in mining-related companies are at risk of losing their jobs by 2030. The report also underlined the spill-out effect of fewer coal jobs, as many other jobs are indirectly linked to the coal industry and will be impacted by coal closures.
However, in many regions, sustainable jobs can more than replace those lost according to WWF. For instance, in Poland’s Eastern Wielkopolska region, 12,000 jobs will be created in energy alone, which would be more than enough to make up for those lost in the coal lignite- and related sectors. As WWF highlights the transition will cost money and the returns are not immediate but the investment comes with returns.
Overall, the report found that while many jobs are at risk in these coal regions, using the EU’s Just Transition Fund and other financial resources to make a smart investment in people and sustainable sectors could more than replace the jobs lost, help the environment, and boost local economies.