Coal Regions High-Level Conference
The speakers pointed out that the energy transition being aimed at following the Paris Climate Agreement, and hence the structural change in coal regions, requires taking a holistic approach, including in particular, measures for infrastructure development, innovation, research and science, business support and development, development of skilled workers, marketing, culture and tourism.
As it was stressed in the conference this structural change is a European task, which needs to be supported at European level including through European financial resources.
The funding should be additional and should not divert money from regional policy. It could then be used to strengthen the ERDF and ESF programmes for these NUTS 2 regions over the next seven years. This approach would also allow for tailor-made support for all coal regions. This funding is intended to actively promote European added value and is to be open to all coal regions affected by structural change. It should be made clear that it might become difficult to provide additional money for coal regions in transition if Member States did not agree on a threshold of 1.3%.
The speakers thus welcomed the Commission President-elect's emphasis on promoting the EU transition towards climate neutrality by 2050 through appropriate industrial strategies, as well as supporting the people and regions most affected through a new Just Transition Fund. Most speakers thought that such a fund should in particular help by being closely linked with cohesion policy, mitigating the social, socio-economic and environmental impact of structural change in European coal regions. In order to ensure ownership it should be subject to shared management. Speakers agreed that that this fund should be financed through additional resources and not at the expense of the funding for structural policy.
Several speakers also highlighted that the regions should have sufficient room for manoeuvre with regard to competition policy rules. They called on the Commission, when drawing up the new guidelines, to take account also of the problems linked to the structural change in coal regions and to ensure that coal regions have sufficient flexibility to enable them to phase out coal in a socially and economically viable way.
Commissioner Oettinger announced that he or his successor Johannes Hahn would set up a Round Table where the CoR will be a member.
Take away message
When implementing the climate targets of the Paris Agreement none of the 41 coal regions in Europe should be left behind. The phasing-out of coal needs a holistic approach. The regions need structural support from the European Union via additional means. A Just Transition Fund should be closely linked with cohesion policy and be subject to a system of shared management. Finally, more flexibility with regard to state aid rules is necessary.
Mr Speich "Climate change is a challenge for the whole of Europe. The transformation of coal regions is a crucial contribution to achieving our climate goals. The EU therefore has to support coal regions in transition. The EU should provide financial support for the socio-economic transition of coal-mining regions."
Further quotes of Mr Speich and the other speakers are available under