Clean energy jobs will revive coal mining communities in Europe, new WWF report says
With Europe’s fossil fuel industry in dire straits, a new report finds that sustainable jobs are the continent’s future.
In coal mining regions like Poland, Greece and Bulgaria, jobs in the coal industry are increasingly difficult to find. The mining sector is shrinking, threatening many livelihoods.
In Silesia, Poland, 15,000-18,000 mining company workers are at risk of losing their jobs by 2030 due to inefficient mining process and EU and country climate policy. 2,200 coal jobs in Greece are also at imminent threat.
The impacts even go beyond the employment figures. Local communities in West Macedonia, a region of Greece, will experience lost income of around € 3.1 for every € 1 withdrawn from lignite activity (lignite is a form of coal with a carbon content of ‘about 25 to 35%).
However, in many regions, sustainable jobs can more than replace those that are lost.
Up to 22,000 new jobs could be created in the Polish region of eastern Wielkopolska in the field of clean energy, due to the lower costs of wind and solar energy.
This is why WWF calls on EU countries to phase out their coal-fired electricity by 2030 in favor of renewable energies. It would also mean that they respect the commitments made under the Paris Agreement.
Is a sustainable transition possible in coal regions?
the report takes an in-depth look at places like Silesia and East Wielkopolska in Poland and West Macedonia and Megalopolis in Greece, taking into account factors such as planning, local participation, transparency and funding, to determine if a renewable transition is on today’s agenda.
The results show that it is possible to “transform coal communities into sustainable and economically prosperous places of life”.
“The lessons for the EU are clear. We can do it right, but to do it the EU Just Transition Mechanism should only finance sectors in line with the net zero carbon economy, such as renewable energies or the circular economy. In addition, the European Commission needs to verify that plans at local level aim for zero fossil fuels and are developed in a participatory, transparent and fair manner, ”says Katie Treadwell of WWF’s European Policy Office.
How will the transition be funded?
The European Commission has set up a € 17.5 billion “Just Transition Fund” to help support the social impacts of the transition from coal in regions whose economies rely on it. Communities can access the fund by drawing up plans that their government will submit to the European Commission.
The goal is to move to what they call a “sustainable and climate neutral economy”.
“Fossil gas in Greece is in the same situation as coal 15 years ago, and will face a similar crisis of stranded assets in the years to come. We need to lock in sustainable alternatives, not more fossil fuels, ”says Dimitris Tsekeris of WWF Greece.
The transition must be fair and well thought out, he adds, “without leaving anyone behind”.