Energy Transition in Europe's Coal Regions : Issues for Regional Policy

Davies, Sara and den Hoed, Wilbert and Michie, Rona (2020) Energy Transition in Europe's Coal Regions : Issues for Regional Policy. University of Strathclyde, Glasgow.

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Climate change is generating new pressures for transition in coal intensive regions. The 2016 Paris Climate Agreement has led to new strategies and targets for reducing climate emissions at EU and national levels. Decarbonisation of the energy sector is a vital component of these strategies. The EU aims to reduce climate emissions from the energy sector by at least 54 percent by 2030 (compared to 1990) and at least 93 percent by 2050. These targets imply a shift out of coal-mining and coal-fired power in coming decades. Coal transition requires regional policy intervention. Coal production and power stations are inevitably concentrated in particular places, and also typically become linked into other regional sectors and supply chains, as well as political, social and cultural networks, which support economic development but can also inhibit economic transition. Coal production in the Europe-30 is concentrated in specific regions in Poland, Germany, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria and Romania. Germany and Poland together account for 54 percent of the EU’s coal-related climate emissions. EU Cohesion policy 2021-27 is expected to include a focus on the carbon-free economy, including energy transition. This could include support for coal transition regions e.g. through an Energy Transition Fund. Wider EU support is seen in the Coal Regions in Transition Platform, as well as in INTERREG and HORIZON projects. National regional policies are also targeting coal regions. Poland’s coal sector has seen major restructuring since 1990 but it remains an important regional employer. Poland is committed to meeting international targets on climate emissions and energy transition but also faces the need to ensure energy supply and regional employment. The Programme for Silesia supports a shift from traditional sectors such as coal towards future-oriented sectors. Germany is committed to the phasing-out of coal-fired power in order to meet climate targets. In 2019, the federal government agreed an ambitious programme of support for the transition of the remaining brown coal regions, with €40 billion of federal funding to 2038. Historic experiences of coal transition suggest the need for future policies to prioritise a long-term, well-funded and multi-faceted strategic approach, drawing on the participation of a wide range of stakeholders at multiple levels, and including efforts to generate new ideas, mobilise regional capacities and reconfigure social capital, as well as to involve local communities in transition.