The so-called EU Just Transition Fund (EU-JTF) will eventually not be as just and fair as it should have been. The agreement reached during the last EU Summit on the Recovery and Resilience Fund will have a major impact in EU-JTF – a support mechanism for European countries which is supposed to sit at the heart of the European Green Deal.
We are speaking about significant reductions from € 40bn to € 20bn.
This massive cut jeopardises the coal regions’ just transition across the EU, especially in Poland and Germany, but also in the 8 provinces in Spain where coal mines and coal-fired power plants are shutting down, or about to. Approximately a 4 %-4,5 % of the budgeted fund will be deployed in A Coruña, Asturias, León, Palencia, Teruel, Almeria, Córdoba y Cádiz, around a 400-450M of euros, a totally insufficient amount to tackle the Just Transition in a just way. Unemployment rates and rural-urban youth migration will rise, further deepening the current depopulation trend. If no financial resources are put in place in order to seek socioeconomic alternatives for these regions, as soon as the companies shut down the remaining mines and facilities, their future will become darker than the coal they used to burn down.
Just Limited Transition Plans
The Government’s concerns at the moment are fully justified: Spain has been the first European country to elaborate and agree a plan that addresses and alleviates the vulnerabilities derived from the energy transition, in line with JTF before the latest amendments. The National Integrated Energy and Climate Plan (NCEP) which partly relies on studies conducted by diverse international organizations that show the ecological transition can be an opportunity for job creation, foresaw an increase of 1.6 % in employment in 2030 in the trend-based scenario. In other words, the Spanish NCEP, the Just Transition Strategy, the Fair Transition Agreement, and the rest of bills, plans, strategies and other tools aimed at achieving the decarbonisation of the Spanish economy and the increase in green employment, will be harshly undermined by the latest European policy developments. Overall, a nasty blow to the Government plans, and even nastier for some communities whose livelihoods direct or indirectly entirely depend on coal activity.
Trade unions, environmentalist groups and other civil society organisations have taken a critical position from the beginning. Despite the fact that all of them recognize the need to implement as soon as possible Just Transition measures to accompany decarbonisation plans as well as an increase of the green employment rates, they consider that the objectives managed by the Government are insufficient, both from a social and environmental point of view. Certainly not all of them are doing so at the same level -there are important nuances in the messaging- but they all agree that when we speak about Just Transition, we also need to speak about other economic sectors, not only the ones related to coal (or nuclear).
Beyond the coal issue, the reconversion, replacement or closure of the automotive industry facilities will produce a decrease in economic, industrial and commercial activity at national and regional level, as well as in the income of local administrations. The agriculture, especially at small and medium level, will be harshly affected by measures such as the diesel tax, cost-effective but environmental friendly alternatives to fuel the tractor’s tank need to be up streamed as soon as possible. Transport industry will also be hit by this measure. These are just some examples of economic sectors that have a high contribution to the national GDP that will require a sectoral plan that include RDI support, financing, loans, guarantees, safeguards, and trainings amongst others. And for that purpose, a bottom-up approach coordinated by all the administration from local to national will be needed, a major challenge that nor Spain, neither the rest of the European partners, are still able to face.
A good first step
Ecoserveis would also like to stress the importance of a just transition, not only for workers and economic sectors, but also for the common people. Every year more people are being affected by energy poverty in Spain, In fact, at the end of 2018, the need to address energy poverty in a comprehensive manner and with a long-term vision was eventually recognised. Few month later, a 5-year National Strategy against Energy Poverty was released, jointly elaborated by the regional authorities, local entities, CSOs and affected groups. This document would establish a framework of protection for people who were in a situation of vulnerability.
The diagnosis elaborated in the first place identified that between 3.5 and 8.1 million Spanish citizens are in a situation of energy poverty. Other relevant data that came to the surface was that 8 % of the population cannot maintain a comfortable situation in their home, 7.4 % have problems paying the bills for basic supplies, and 17.3 % have a disproportionate spending on their supplies.
At the light of these numbers, the strategy sets a 2025 target to reduce these values by a 50 %, reaching a minimum reduction of 25 %. In order to achieve this goal, some lines of action and specific measures in the text are an echo of good practices that are already being carried out at European level. This strategy is a first step towards the right direction, and the concept of energy poverty is finally recognised and defined at national level, however more steps need to be taken to prevent even more energy poverty cases. Ecoserveis will be working in order to ensure that no citizen has to choose between living in the dark or in the cold.