What’s next for the just transition of Silesia?

The transformation of the Silesian Voivodeship, understood as a change of its economic profile, has been going on for 30 years. The present moment may be called its turning point. Acceleration of the process of moving away from fossil fuels and development of zero-emission technologies put pressure on the labor market and the economy of the region. How to maintain the competitiveness of Silesia, and even increase it?

How many new jobs and what opportunities for miners

According to the latest IBS report, prepared for WWF Poland “Directions of Territorial Plan of Just Transition and Development for the Silesian Voivodeship“, in the horizon of 2030 even 13 thousand people employed in the mining industry will require requalification or protective measures. In the group of companies directly dependent on hard coal mining (direct suppliers were counted) redundancies may cover another 15-18 thousand people due to reduced demand for their services. Researchers decided to check which industries will be able to absorb people leaving these areas and in which to invest. 

Among alternative activities, which are particularly worth developing in the Silesian Voivodeship in order to replace mining jobs, the following were identified: construction, manufacturing, energy industry, logistics and reclamation. These industries provide relatively good salaries, are similar in terms of skills and competences to mining and are part of regional specialisations of the Silesian Voivodeship. These activities additionally respond to the need of managing post-mining areas. It will also be a challenge to ensure employment prospects outside mining for young employees. Particular support will be required especially for young underground miners under 35 years of age. In addition to this group, employees of private mines and the so-called “surface” must also be included. A precondition for a just transition is the development of attractive support tools for all, taking into account their individual preferences and predispositions. From the report one can learn how many thousands of jobs the region is able to generate in each of these branches. In total, only until 2030 there is a possibility of creating even 75-85 thousand new jobs in the above mentioned industries in the Silesian Voivodeship. This is a serious answer to the questions appearing nowadays about the future of Silesian inhabitants and entrepreneurs.

Local government as a guarantor of Just Transition

Programming of the new EU perspective, including Just Transition Fund, is to be completed this year. We point out that it is the region, understood as the regional self-government, which should play the leading role in the development and implementation of this Fund, as well as have greater influence on other investment programs and activities of institutions dependent on the government administration. In parallel, the region should develop its own development instruments using self-government companies such as the Silesian Development Fund, the Upper Silesian Fund and other related institutions. In order to ensure the complementarity of investments, the regional government should also monitor and consult the emerging development documents of mining municipalities, most of which will become outdated at the end of 2021. We also believe that the local government should appoint sub-regional coordinators in the transformation cell, who would deal with communication with stakeholders, coordination and supervision of submitted projects, as well as support participation mechanisms in mining municipalities so that the transformation is an inclusive and inclusive process for all social groups.

The mining sector must be supported

According to estimates from the report, each job in mining directly generates (we are talking about suppliers to the mining industry) 1.2-1.4 jobs in other industries – mainly engineering, energy and transport. The vast majority of these jobs are in the Silesian Voivodeship. During earlier stages of restructuring of the mining industry, mining companies and their employees were the first to feel the effects of this process, therefore in the current process they should be taken care of by providing financial and advisory support from government and regional authorities. This process should be accelerated with business diversification instruments. Such a solution can bé grants or attractive industrial loans covering funds for investment, R&D, export and employee training.

About the project

The report “Directions for a Territorial Plan of Just Transition and Development for the Silesian Voivodeship” was prepared for the WWF Poland Foundation as part of the project “Regions and Municipalities for a Just Transition” under the European Climate Protection Initiative (EUKI) of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU).