We work for a just future without lignite 

At first glance the reader might question him/herself about the point of this section, which, in fact, means something quite reasonable: when the economy of a region is monopolized by a single economic activity that is heading soon to its end, it is necessary to develop other sustainable economic activities that will help the region to turn the page and secure sustainable livelihoods for local communities. 

© Andrea Bonetti / WWF Greece

This ambitious transition task cannot be achieved without a strategic plan. The transition to the post-lignite era requires an attempt to develop such a strategic plan aiming at the local communities that for years have been economically and socially enclaved in the lignite monoculture for energy production. However, no such transition can be just in the absence of a public debate involving all relevant stakeholders and the local communities themselves. In order to minimize the hardships on both workers and local communities dependent on lignite, a participatory strategy for a just transition is essential.

The necessity for this transition is apparent now more than ever. In a world where fossil fuels have lost their primacy irreversibly, the gradual transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy is imperative. This energy transition is the only way for Europe to meet the climate and energy-binding targets as they were agreed in the Paris Climate Change Agreement.

To this end, WWF Greece in close collaboration with WWF Germany, WWF Poland, and WWF Bulgaria designed the “Just Transition in Eastern and Southern Europe” project, which is supported by the European Climate Initiative of the German Ministry of Environment. The aim of this project is:

  • to promote transformative pathways for job creation in coal/lignite-dependent economies in Greece, Bulgaria and Poland 
  • to identify the necessary financial tools for its implementation and 
  • to create an active network of various actors (trade unions, local authorities, civil society, universities, etc.), which will contribute to the integration of Just Transition as a key component of national and European policies, thus further establishing social justice as a core European value. 

Project Activities

The core of this project’s actions is to develop, with the engagement of the relevant stakeholders and the local communities, tailor-made transition strategies for the economic transformation of specific regions in Bulgaria (Southwest Bulgaria), Greece (Western Macedonia), and Poland (Silesia) away from coal and towards sustainable economic activities. Each transition plan will form the basis for advocating Just Transition pathways and region-specific options at the national and EU level. 

The transition plans will build on the experience of the plan already produced by WWF Greece in collaboration with Panteion University of Athens in 2016 entitled “Roadmap for Transition of the Western Macedonia Region to the Postlignite Era” which provides quantifiable and specific proposals and solutions for the primary, secondary and tertiary sector of the local economy of Western Macedonia. This will be completed by a study dedicated to past experiences (good and bad) from the transition in Germany.

To secure the active engagement of local communities and transparency, actions will also include open discussions with representatives of local government, local Members of Parliament, trade unions and civil society organizations and other local stakeholders in Bulgaria, Greece, and Poland. These open discussions will contribute, both to pushing forward just transition policy options and to the creation of a wider network of stakeholders from the four countries.

Finally, a range of advocacy activities will be conducted towards EU institutions with the objective of raising awareness on Just Transition so as to make it an integral component of European climate policy along with securing appropriate funding through both the European Commission's “Coal Regions in Transition” platform and the new EU’s multiannual financial framework but also funding at national level.

The project of just transition to the post-lignite era is of vital importance to us. We plan the future so that transition does not leave anyone behind and to happen as smoothly as possible. Together we can suggest solutions that will make our common future better and more sustainable.