Source: Committe of Regions
A CoR Multi-Level Dialogue underscores the crucial need to involve local and regional authorities in national plans to phase out coal and successfully roll out the EU’s Just Transition Fund
While Member States are currently defining their plans and priority investments under the Just Transition Mechanism , the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) brought together local and regional authorities and EU institutions to discuss cities’ and regions’ involvement in phasing out coal, reducing the footprint of carbon-intensive industries and addressing the social and economic effects of the transition towards a climate-neutral economy. The CoR’s Multi-Level Dialogue was attended by representatives from the main beneficiaries of the EUR 150 billion Just Transition Mechanism which include Germany, Poland and Romania. The event is part of the Just Transition Platform meeting which aims to assist EU Member States and regions in the path towards climate neutrality.
On Monday 26 April, the Council of the EU and the European Parliament reached a political agreement on the last of the three pillars composing the Just Transition Mechanism , the new financial instrument which will help the EU to implement the European Green Deal and reach climate neutrality by 2050. The Just Transition Mechanism is expected to mobilise up to EUR 150 billion over the period 2021-2027 to alleviate the socio-economic impact of the energy transition in the most vulnerable regions. Following an invitation from Elisa Ferreira, European Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, this week’s four-day Just Transition Platform meeting included a Multi-Level Dialogue organised by the EU’s assembly of cities and regions which looked also into the potential of the bioeconomy for the Just Transition. Discussions took place as Member States shape their territorial just transition plans which are mandatory to unlock the resources of the Just Transition Mechanism. The CoR’s ambition is to make the Multi-Level Dialogue a regular platform for exchange between local and regional authorities from coal and energy-intensive regions.
The Multi-Level Dialogue was opened by Juan Espadas (ES/PES), Mayor of Seville and Chair of the CoR’s ENVE commission and Green Deal Going Local Working Group . Mayor Espadas said: “The EU Green Deal has to be the cornerstone of all EU policies. The Just Transition Fund and Mechanism offer the chance to meet the Green Deal targets and achieve climate neutrality in our cities and regions. This process needs to be inclusive and ensure that all of our citizens are taken on board on this path into a sustainable future. Today’s Multi-level dialogue is an important part of this process to kick-off the green transformation. We have no time to lose.”
Vojko Obersnel (HR/PES), Mayor of Rijeka and CoR rapporteur on the Just Transition Fund , said : “The voices of cities and regions in the process of a just transition have been heard. In this first Multi-level dialogue meeting the CoR politically assessed the final compromise and the ongoing implementation and exchanged on best-practices on the ground. Substantial financing opportunities, revised guidelines on regional state aid and the new Public Sector Loan Facility will ensure achieving the goals of the EU Green Deal and a transition into a sustainable future for all.”
Jácint Horváth (HU/PES), Local government representative of Nagykanizsa County and CoR rapporteur on a Sustainable bioeconomy for Europe , stated: “Cities and regions should develop their own just transition plans, building on their strengths and considering the potential of bio-based industries and bioeconomy, which can help move away from a linear economy heavily dependent on fossil and mineral resources. To be successful, the green transition, which is essentially a systemic change in the way we produce and consume, must be firmly embedded at regional and local level. A circular and sustainable bioeconomy is a valuable ally for just transitions.”
The member of the European Parliament Jan Olbrycht (PL/EPP) joined the discussion highlighting that ” the preparation of Territorial Just Transition Plans will test whether there is political will to implement multi-level governance in practice .”
Jakub Piotr Chełstowski (PL/ECR), Regional President of Silesia, highlighted: “In 2019, discussions began in the region on the challenges of the transformation process. It was then that the Board of the Silesia region decided to establish a regional team for the initiative of mining regions in the Silesia region. The team includes representatives from very different environments, which is important. We have representatives from all levels of state administration: social, local government and business.”
Javier Vila Ferrero (ES/PES), Director General of European Affairs of the Principality of Asturias added: “The greatest difficulty that regions will have in the coming years is the perfect and efficient coordination of all the funds that will be implemented. It is necessary to know the exact amount that can be assigned to each territory, without increasing the number of eligible regions. Furthermore, regions in transition must have enough self-determination and flexibility to select the most appropriate actions in their territory and it is also necessary to enable greater aid intensities than other regions.”
Klaus Freytag, Representative of the Prime Minister of the Region of Lusatia, from the State Chancellery of the State of Brandeburg, said: “The Lusatia mining district extends over Germany, Czech Republic and Poland. We are very interested in further, continuous interregional cooperation and we consider that the Just Transition Platform offers a good opportunity to discuss the regional green transition process in a European context. As part of an already established trilateral cooperation with Polish and Czech regions, our approach focuses explicitly on the economic and social dimensions of structural change. Moreover, we are also keen to bring the cross-border aspect of ‘just transition’ into the discussion.”
Florin-Tiberiu Iacob-Ridzi, Mayor of the Romanian city of Petrosani, noted: ” The transition to a climate-neutral economy must be fair in all respects. The use of funds will focus on the human being and family, which means a fair social and economic reconversion of these regions, thus creating the premise of a decent and prosperous living, with a clean and healthy environment for our children, for future generations.”
The four-day Just Transition Platform Meeting was opened on Monday 26 April by Elisa Ferreira, Commissioners for Cohesion and Reforms, and Kadri Simson, Commissioner for Energy. Commissioner Ferreira said: “ The time is now to deliver on the promise to leave no region behind. Local partners need a seat at the table and to take ownership of the Just Transition Mechanism’s investments in their territory.” Commissioner Simson noted: “ This edition of the Just Transition Platform meeting comes at a key moment and will enable an open dialogue between Member States and stakeholders at all levels to discuss progress .”
The Just Transition Mechanism addresses the social and economic effects of the transition and is a new EU financial tool which focuses on the regions, industries and workers who will face the greatest challenges addressing the transition towards a Green economy. It envisages to mobilise up to EUR 150 billion – thanks to a combination of grants, loans, facilities, private and public investments – through three pillars: a new EUR 17,5 billion Just Transition Fund (JTF), an InvestEU Just Transition scheme, which is expected to mobilise up to EUR 45 billion, and a Public Sector Loan Facility (PSLF) which consists of a combination of grants (EUR 1.5 billion) from the EU budget and loans (EUR 10 billion) provided by the European Investment Bank (EIB). The PSLF is expected to mobilise up to EUR 25 and EUR 30 billion of public investments over the next 7 years.
The European Parliament and the Council of the EU came to a political agreement on Monday 26 April on the proposal for a new Public Sector Loan Facility. With this, all the proposals of the Just Transition Mechanism have been accepted and are pending final approval from the European Parliament and the Council to enter into force.
The Just Transition Platform assists EU countries and regions with the transition. It consists of a single access point and helpdesk and provides comprehensive technical and advisory support.
According to the European Commission’s proposal , Poland, Germany and Romania will be the main beneficiaries of the Just Transition Fund.
The Just Transition Mechanism falls under the remits of the CoR’s Green Deal Going Local (GDGL) working group. Launched in June 2020 and composed of 13 local and regional elected representatives , the GDGL working group has the objective to guarantee that EU cities and regions are directly involved in the definition, implementation and assessment of the numerous initiatives that fall under the European Green Deal, the EU’s sustainable growth strategy to reach climate-neutrality by 2050.