On the occasion of the first meeting of the new Just Transition Platform for the Coal Regions in the Western Balkans and Ukraine, held today and tomorrow through an online conference, 18 NGOs demand that the Platform establish clear rules to ensure inclusive and just transition in this regions.
“Our country, along with other countries in the Western Balkans, is definitely heading to the energy transition, whether we want to admit it or not. Through this Platform, we have the opportunity to learn from others, and soon from our own experiences – so we need to demand that these activities of the Platform are in line with our situation, commitment and capabilities, “said Majda Ibrakovic from the Center for Environment. She adds that the energy transition, especially here in the Balkans, must be both just and inclusive: to include the most vulnerable categories of coal regions, and to exclude any investment in the past – fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas.
The platform is designed for regions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*, Montenegro, Northern Macedonia, Serbia and Ukraine, where activities related to coal exploitation and electricity production are dominant. It is based on the Joint Statement of the Western Balkan countries, signed in Podgorica 2019, when the signatories expressed their commitment to the transition to clean energy, and the Ukrainian low-emission development strategy adopted in 2017.
“Our politicians should understand that this time they will not be able to get it both ways. It is pointless to ask for funds for just transition projects and at the same time build new coal power plants.” – said Denis Žiško from the Center for Ecology and Energy and added, “Without a clearly defined coal phase-out date and clear projects to help affected local communities, this will be a rerun of the transition which happened after war, where same politicians destroyed other sectors of the economy in Bosnia and Herzegovina.”
Based on their experience in coal regions in the Western Balkans and Ukraine, and with the EU’s Coal Regions in Transition Platform, the NGOs urge the platform to internalise early on the four principles outlined below to ensure the success of this initiative:
1. The Platform must have clearly defined, consistent and measurable goals, set up within a clear time frame.
2. The Platform must ensure that all relevant groups – local communities, NGOs, trade unions, educational institutions, local businesses, etc. – are involved, from participation in the Platform’s meetings, to the selection of pilot regions, to project selection and implementation. This principle must apply on all levels downstream of the Platform, so planning processes in the countries must take a bottom-up approach starting from the local level and engage communities in coal regions.
3. Any funding channeled by this initiative must be conditioned on local and participatory plans, exclude any kind of support for fossil fuels and incentivise reasonably fast coal phaseout dates.
4. The initiative should incentivise the adoption of territorial just transition plans, which should be consistent at least with National Energy and Climate Plans. If needed, to ensure consistency with achieving climate neutrality in the region by 2050, the just transition plans should go beyond the NECPs.
In the European Green Deal, which aims to make the EU climate neutral by 2050, the European Commission stated that the ecological transition for Europe can be fully effective only if the EU’s immediate neighborhood also takes effective measures. The countries of the Western Balkans recently signed the Sofia Declaration, which also committed them to achieving climate neutrality by 2050, which means that the planning of the transition should start today – because in this case every “tomorrow” is too late.