Open Letter: Make Just Transition a reality!July 21, 2021
An open letter to Polish members of the European Parliament, the Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy of the European Commission, members of the Polish Parliament, the Marshal’s Office of Silesia, Katowice City Council, Rybnik City Council, and Mysłowice City Council,
on behalf of Climate Reality Europe and BoMiasto.
The Green Deal, the European Climate Law, and the recently proposed Fit for 55 legislative package are helping to pave the way to a climate neutral society. In the context of this vital transformation, and of what is possibly the biggest socioeconomic undertaking this century, public discourse is focusing on the measures required for implementation, while its inevitability is not in question.
The financial mechanisms, legal frameworks, and special funds needed to support Member States in the green transition are being put in place. Going well beyond the alleviation of economic burdens, these represent an unprecedented opportunity to remodel local, regional, and national economies. The Just Transition Fund — which will provide financial assistance amounting to €17.5 billion up to 2027 — will doubtless have the biggest impact. It is aimed at facilitating a just transition by financing projects that are aligned with Europe’s ambition to phase out the production and use of coal and transform heavily polluting industries and regions in order to reach net zero targets by 2050.
The Polish region of Upper Silesia, with its high concentration of coal mines, should undoubtedly be one of the main beneficiaries of the Just Transition Fund, with estimated available funding of over EUR 2 billion within its reach. However, this opportunity is currently being jeopardized by Polish national government plans to continue providing fossil fuel subsidies — plans that include the opening of new coal mines in the region. Despite this, aspects that fall under the jurisdiction of the regional authorities are currently being outlined in the Territorial Just Transition Plan (TJTP), a document identifying how the region will be impacted by the green transition.
Throughout the TJTP development process in Silesia, opportunities have been created for public participation and consultation, which have allowed all stakeholders a chance to comment on the draft plan. This is a good starting point for ensuring that the future of the region is shaped through dialogue with its population.
Nevertheless, the TJTP, which represents perhaps the most important opportunity this decade for the community of Upper Silesia, needs to be far more ambitious in terms of embarking on the path towards a green, healthy, and sustainable future, where no one is left behind.
Climate Reality Europe and BoMiasto call for:
A clearly defined phase-out date for coal. The urgency of the climate crisis and the economic pressure surrounding mine closures make a clearly defined and legally binding phase-out date essential. Early action and a long-term direction set by the Polish national government will translate into effective transition at the local and regional level by creating greater predictability for companies and investors, which will allow them to develop new business models in all sectors, not just energy.
A definitive end to fossil fuel subsidies. Any governmental plans to lock dirty fossil fuels and the opening of new coal mines into the future of the region represent a threat to the financial support for the region’s transition being offered by the European Commission, thus jeopardizing the security of future generations.
Ambitious local and regional climate policies. As Polish national climate action continues to lag behind, cities and regions have the responsibility to take the lead in proposing and championing ambitious climate policies at local and regional level.
A transparent and inclusive just transition process. The people of Silesia deserve the opportunity to participate actively in the progressive proposals that will safeguard a just, resilient, and fair future for their community, and to monitor their implementation.
The far-reaching consequences of the transition mean that the active participation of all stakeholders is essential throughout the process — from the European Commission and the European Parliament, through national governments, local decision makers, the media, and civil society organisations, to the impacted citizens themselves. Every link in this chain is vital, and inaction on the part of any one stakeholder will hamper the actions and ambitions of others.
We call on the decision makers and stakeholders involved in the TJTP development process to recognize their responsibility to build the foundations of the greatest endeavor of this century. The successful transition to a greener, healthier, and economically resilient future depends on all participants taking ownership of the process.