In order to be considered “just” and “inclusive”, energy transition processes need to ensure fairness via equal distribution, full recognition of rights and labour contributions, equal participation in decision-making procedures, and equal capabilities in renewable energy outcomes1.
This is why it is crucial to conceive a “just energy transition” NOT as a fixed set of rules, but rather as a vision, a process based on dialogue and an agenda for a participatory framework that prioritizes the needs and concerns of local residents, particularly vulnerable stakeholders. Engaging communities, bottom-up, is also critical to realizing the full potential of renewable energy sources and prioritize the feedback from local people on the suitability of certain project developments, as well as establishing an inclusive and just supply chain process2.
Against this backdrop, also in the Energy Community concrete steps are needed to ensure that a move away from fossil fuels in the Contracting Parties, instead of replicating inequalities, is socially just, in the interest of women, workers and entire communities. The objectives of the Energy Community Just Transition Initiative are to:
- Enhance institutional arrangements that support just processes in the energy sector to deliver more equitable outcomes;
- Support an inclusive, bottom-up engagement, where policy-makers prioritize the feedback from local communities on the suitability of energy project developments; and
- Promote cross-sectoral projects (coal regions in transitions, energy poverty, gender equality, clean air) between the energy sector (industry, coal mines, utilities) and other departments (such as the public sector, academia, innovation hubs, IFIs) to develop inclusive energy policies, programs, or financing schemes.
- Encourage regular communication and exchange of best practices in the fields of energy poverty, gender equality, coal regions in transition and clean air.
The Energy Community Secretariat manages four interlinked projects, which together represent the key dimensions of the Just Transition Initiative.
Just transition dimensions in brief
Energy poverty is commonly defined as the inability to secure adequate levels of energy services in the home. It is a complex, structural problem caused by low real income of households, and high energy demand. The most effective
long-term policies to combat energy poverty are those based on energy efficiency measures.
The Energy Community Secretariat launched a study on energy poverty, aiming to identify and assess the number of households in energy poverty in the region and proposing policies and measures to combat it. The finalization of the study is expected by late 2021.
In the second step, the project will facilitate
- creating a database and a long-term mechanism for monitoring energy poverty levels in Contracting Parties;
- addressing energy poverty with energy efficiency policies and measures, including prioritisation of building renovation programmes;
- setting up a permanent cooperation with the Energy Poverty Observatory and facilitating the inclusion of Contracting Parties.
Inequalities can persist in green energy systems, as energy interventions do not automatically tackle the structural dynamics embedded within socio-cultural and socio-economic contexts. Also, in general, the proportion of women engaged in the energy transition is still low, especially as we expect the sustainable energy sector to grow significantly in the next decades, with approximately 42 million jobs by 2050.1
This project will ensure that a move away from fossil fuels, instead of replicating existing inequalities, will give women a place at the table where energy transitions are discussed and shaped. Leveraging on existing guidance from the Paris Agreement, the EU and the UN, the Energy Community Secretariat will support the inclusion of the gender dimension in the just energy transition of its Contracting Parties by addressing, among other things:
- ensuring equal representation in decision-making processes, projects and events in relation to energy;
- promoting education and training of women on business management, sustainable energy technology and renewables;
- actively participating to international and regional energy initiatives on gender and energy;
- considering the need to conduct gender impact assessments (GIA) alongside environmental and social impact assessments;
- collecting better gender-disaggregated data across sectors for sectoral studies.
1 IRENA, Renewable Energy: A Gender Perspective, January 2019
Coal Regions in Transition
Coal Regions in Transition
The Coal Regions in Transition Project for Western Balkans and Ukraine is a joint effort of the principals (European Commission, Energy Community, World Bank, EBRD, College of Europe, Government of Poland) who are working together on cooperation with partners in the Western Balkans and Ukraine to deliver knowledge to coal regions and governments, principally through meetings and the Coal Regions in Transition Learning Academy. Knowledge to be delivered pertains to planning and preparing for transition.
In addition, the project will bring financial resources to assist selected regions in identifying and implementing pilot projects. The establishment of the initiative aims to facilitate the development of transition strategies and projects to kick start the transition process in the coal-dependent regions. The Energy Community Secretariat will provide input and ensure consistency of the planned activities in the coal mining regions in Western Balkans and Ukraine with national plans related to coal use and reforms of the energy system.
Clean Air Regions Initiative
Clean Air Regions Initiative (CARI)
Air pollution is a pressing environmental and health issue in the Energy Community Contracting Parties. Pollution arising from combustion plants within the Western Balkans alone is estimated to cause 3,000 premature deaths, 8,000 cases of bronchitis in children and other chronic illnesses, costing both health systems and economies a total of EUR 6.1-11.5 billion.1 Air pollution is also a major threat to Contracting Parties’ food and water security as well as ecosystems.
Burning fossil fuels, plastic and biomass for energy use is the principal source of air pollution in urban and rural areas. The Clean Air Regions Initiative (CARI) intends to incentivise regions and communities at a subnational level to mobilize in the field of air quality on a voluntary basis and to achieve improvements via the introduction of measures capable of reducing pollution into the air. The Secretariat, supported by the Hungarian Western Balkans Green Center (WBGC), will assist committed regions and communities with specific trainings, knowledge transfer, networking and facilitate their access to finance.
On the occasion of the Energy Community Just Transition Forum on 30 June 2021, nine Western Balkan municipalities came together virtually to sign a declaration launching the Initiative. By signing the declaration, mayors of the nine participating municipalities will strive to undertake voluntary measures aimed to reduce air pollution in their municipalities. CARI will remain open to other interested municipalities in the future.
1 Health and Environment Alliance, Chronic coal pollution, 19 February 2019