We must not lock regions into unsustainable economic models
Mayors from Europe’s coal regions affirmed their commitment to a sustainable future supported by the EU’s Just Transition Fund at an event with EU Commission Deputy Director for regional policy Normunds Popens and Jerzy Buzek MEP today.
61 mayors from coal regions in 11 European countries have now signed the ‘Declaration of mayors on just transition’, in which they commit to local level action on just transition, and welcome the EU Just Transition Fund, but stress that it must be used exclusively for sustainable economic activities and job creation.
In the view of WWF and over 60 NGOs, the EU’s Just Transition Fund, which is soon to enter trilogue negotiations between the EU institutions, must exclude all fossil fuels, including gas. This is also the position of the EU Commission, the EU Council, and the EU Committee of the Regions. Yet the European Parliament just voted in plenary in favour of gas being eligible for Just Transition funding.
Mariusz Wołosz, Mayor of Bytom in Poland, which hosted the event, said:
“One coal mine is a source of income for around 10 thousand people. We want to make the transition away from coal to renewable energy and sustainable sectors, but we need the EU to support mining regions. That way we can guarantee sustainable jobs for the next generation.”
Marta Anczewska, from WWF Poland, which organises the Forum of Mayors as part of WWF’s Regions Beyond Coal project, said:
Our recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, and our Just Transition to clean energy, need to go hand in hand. This is especially true in Poland where hard coal mining is in deep crisis, due to the government ignoring economic reality. Now is the time to invest in economic diversification and reskilling, and regions need support and funds to do so. If we allow gas and fossil fuels to be supported by the Just Transition Fund, we’ll be locking regions into old, unsustainable economic models. But if the EU bases its support on quitting fossil fuels, the Fund can open the door to a green and just future.”
Today’s third ‘Forum of Mayors’ event was organised by WWF and hosted by Bytom in Poland as part of the Regions Beyond Coal project, financed by the European Climate Initiative (EUKI).