Just transition can happen only through specific policies, not through talks

published 03.08.2023

At the end of June, Karlovy Vary hosted a large European conference on just transition. The Czech Republic was the fourth country to host the so-called Annual Political Dialogue, which brings together representatives of coal regions from across the European Union in order to discuss the progress and challenges of the fossil fuel phase-out.

Vision and community energy

During the conference, many important ideas were shared on how to switch from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy as soon as possible or how to maximally involve vulnerable groups of the population in the decision-making process which will affect their future. It is certainly positive to hear such declarations at crucial meetings like this, as clear visions and plans are an essential part of the development of the regions. However, without specific supportive policies, these visions can easily remain behind the conference doors.

We also consider it a positive development that this year's conference dealt with the possibilities of supporting community energy. In this context, the decision on the amendment to the Lex OZE II Act will be crucial. The law addresses the sharing of electricity produced from renewable sources through the public distribution network and this amendment will fundamentally affect whether the Czech Republic succeeds in decentralizing the energy sector and supporting municipalities and small players in their energy self-sufficiency in the coming years.

Transition as a major challenge

The transition from coal mining and the use of fossil fuels to clean and sustainable energy sources requires profound structural changes, extensively affecting people living in the coal regions. Therefore, the European Just Transition Fund provides financial support for education, employment and green energy innovations in order to help in fulfilling the EU climate goals. For the 2021-2027 program period, the Czech Republic received 41 billion Czech crowns from the Fund for transition projects in the Moravian-Silesian, Karlovy Vary and Ústí Regions.

Exclusively in the Czech republic, up to half of this money will be used on so-called strategic projects - large investment projects that should have a significant transformational benefit for the regions mentioned. The Centre for Transport and Energy together with other professional organizations have long criticized the lack of transparency during the selection process of these projects, as well as the insufficient involvement of the public in the overall process of preparations for a just transition.

Will the transition be effective?

Czech coal regions are among the structurally affected and long-overlooked regions. A well-designed just transition can help kick-start their development. It is therefore crucial that the funds from the Just Transition Fund are used efficiently. Last year, however, the low efficiency in the use of European money for a fair transformation was criticized by the European Court of Auditors.

Overall, the conference brought a number of important proclamations. It has been stressed repeatedly that it is necessary to fulfill climate commitments and abandon fossil fuels, support renewable resources intensively and quickly and sufficiently involve citizens in the energy transformation. In the end, however, far more important than the words themselves will be what steps individual politicians actually take.

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