Coal in Europe’s energy mix

Coal accounts for about a fifth of the total electricity production in the EU. It is also a significant economic driver, providing jobs to around 230,000 people in mines and power plants across 31 regions and 11 EU countries. 

While coal remains a central fuel in the European energy mix, the transition to cleaner forms of energy and innovative technologies, such as carbon capture and storage, is imperative to meet the EU’s commitment to reduce CO2 emissions by at least 40% by 2030 and to become the world’s first climate-neutral bloc by 2050.

Ensuring a just transition

The decline of coal-based energy production is an ongoing reality in Europe. Since 2012, total coal power generation has dropped by almost a third in the EU. The declining use of coal has led to mines closing down in a number of regions across Europe. Although the shift to a low-carbon economy presents many opportunities, economic and social impacts in many coal regions should not be ignored.

The European Green Deal, presented by the Commission in December 2019, aims at making Europe the first climate-neutral bloc in the world by 2050. To help to achieve this goal, the Commission introduced the Just Transition Mechanism (proposal for Regulation COM/2020/22) which, with tailored financial and practical support will help workers and generate the necessary investments to areas particularly affected, like the EU coal regions.

The coal regions in transition initiative

To ensure that no region is left behind in this transition, the Commission launched the initiative for coal and carbon-intensive regions in transition. Included as a non-legislative element of the ‘Clean energy for all Europeans’ package the initiative helps mitigate the social consequences of the low-carbon transition.

The platform for coal regions in transition

The platform for coal regions in transition assists EU countries and coal regions tackling the challenges related to the transition to a low carbon economy.

It aims to support, public administrations and other relevant stakeholders by

  • connecting stakeholders: the platform facilitates collective dialogue among regions and the wider stakeholder community, promoting good practices and cooperation, and organisation of working groups and high-level political events.
  • delivering technical assistance: tailored, needs-oriented assistance and capacity-building help coal regions in the practical steps to transition from the carbon-intensive era towards a clean energy future. 
  • providing supporting resources: through the presentation of helpful information sources and the creation of new support materials. These include toolkits, guidelines and reports covering key transition issues for coal regions, such as governance, environmental rehabilitation, employment, financing, clean air and technologies.

Since early 2019, a secretariat has been set up to manage all platform activities jointly with the European Commission. The secretariat is run by jointly by Ecorys, Climate Strategies, ICLEI Europe and the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment, Energy, who bring together a unique blend of skills and competencies to support the coal regions in transition.

Bilateral support to coal regions in transition

The European Commission provides tailored support, either in the form of operational country teams or bilateral discussions with Commission experts. This support can help national and regional authorities to identify ways to initiate and implement the transition. This support is accompanied by existing EU funds, financing tools, and programmes

The country teams work with national and regional authorities in regions designated by Member States to encourage the preparation of transition strategies and support the identification of priority projects. At present, 20 coal regions are actively participating in the initiative:

  • Silesia, Lower Silesia, Greater Poland, Lesser Poland (Poland)
  • Brandenburg, Saxony, Saxony Anhalt, North Rhine-Westphalia
  • Moravia-Silesia, Usti, Karlovy Vary (Czechia)
  • Jiu Valley (Romania)
  • Western Macedonia (Greece)
  • Upper Nitra (Slovakia)
  • Asturias, Aragón, Castilla-y-León (Spain)
  • Zasavska, Savinjsko-Šaleška (Slovenia)
  • Midlands (Ireland).

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