Panel 2: Green and just transition in the V4
Chair: Dr. Alena Drieschová, Assistant professor, University of Cambridge
Ms. Adrianna Wrona, Energy and Climate Analyst, Instrat, Poland
Mr. David Šimek, consultant to the OECD, Czech Republic
Ms. Petra Vargová Čakovská, Co-founder of SOS, Slovakia
The just transition is a concept closely linked to that of climate justice. It has been gaining increasing relevance, arguing for a focus on the impact that environmental policy and shifting to more sustainable production and consumption models will have on workers in specific industries or people in specific regions. In the context of the V4, this concerns primarily coal-mining regions where many jobs currently depend on the environmentally-damaging activity. There is therefore a strong regional component to the effects of environmental policy.
Out of the 41 coal-mining regions in the EU, 10 are located in the V4 (with 6 of them being in Poland) . The countries’ economies are also highly industrial, with industry making up 30.8% of the Czech economy, 27.4% in Slovakia, 24.5% in Hungary and 27.7% in Poland (in 2020, WDI). Many are therefore worried about the impact that the green transition might have on employment. Renewable energy can provide more jobs than the fossil fuel industry – yet the shift might take time, alternatives and training will be needed, and there might be geographic mismatch between the jobs lost and the new ones emerging.
At COP 24 in Katowice, the Solidary and Just Transition Silesia Declaration was adopted. This points to the importance of it, as previously highlighted by the UN SDGs, ILO guidelines and the Paris Agreement. The EU has also recognised this and focuses on it through the Green Deal’s Just Transition mechanism, which is meant to support transitions in fossil-fuel dependent areas. Funding opportunities are also addressing the problem, such as the Just Transition Fund and the Recovery and Resilience Fund.
With the recent summer heat waves, flash floods or droughts in many regions, we are clearly already seeing climate change impacts in CE. Environmental action is therefore more important than ever, yet many politicians remain sceptical about the need for strict environmental policy and criticise environmental ambitions including the Green Deal or Fit for 55. A common argument is the impacts on prices, lower income households and regions dependent on environmentally damaging activities. Such concerns have also sparked disagreements and legal disputes within the regions, such as between Poland and the Czech Republic over Turów.
The EU promises that the green transition will “leave no one behind”. Is this really possible? How can the V4 transition be sustainable and inclusive, so that it does not sacrifice workers in the “dirty industries”? Do jobs need to be lost in the process, or will this be a Schumpeterian case of creative destruction that can be an opportunity for our economies? Are our regions really so dependent on coal and industry or are we ignoring the rest of their potential? These are some of the questions related to our second panel, “Green and just transition”, which will look at how CE can adapt its post-socialist economies in the face of the pressing threat of climate change by finding a balance between protecting regional economies now and between protecting future generations.