"The purpose of just transition is to ensure that the communities, which will be most affected by the transition to clean energy and to a low-carbon economy, that are the communities which are currently relying economically on fossil fuels for example, the purpose is to ensure that they will not be affected so badly and that quality jobs will be created while fossil fuels are quickly but fairly eliminated from the energy systems.
In Romania, there are two main regions, which are producing coal, hard coal and lignite, and these regions are both monoindustrial. That means that they still rely exclusively for most of the local GDP on coal. So what they need right now is alternatives for the thousands of jobs which will disappear as the country should phase out coal in the coming years.
Romania does not have a strategy to phase out coal yet. This should happen in 2030 in order for us to reach the climate goals as stipulated in the Paris Agreement. But the new national energy strategy of Romania still anticipates that we will have coal even in 2050 in the energy system. This of course ignores many factors, not only the need to act for climate immediately, but also the fact that coal is not doing well economically either.
The fact that the power plants are very old, the fact that coal is running out and again is becoming more and more expensive to extract it. And the fact that in the past 20 years, thousands of jobs have disappeared in these regions and already they are not making any profit, the companies which are extracting and burning the coal in power plants.
A just transition for Romania would mean developing first a strategy for these regions in a very participative way, through consultation of everybody who is affected by the transition. That means local associations and NGOs, that means small businesses, that means the trade unions from mining and even the mining companies as well as the local authorities. We think that these actors have a better understanding of the region than the authorities in the capital and this is why they need to be included in this process from the beginning until the very end.
This process would of course take maybe even decades, because this means really changing all about the economy of the region, which historically has relied on coal production. Especially this is the case for the hard coal region, the first mine being opened there in the 1850s. With the lignite region the history doesn't go back so long, but before it was mostly rural, so again there are no alternatives currently.
However, these regions have a lot of potential. Some even have potential for renewable energy, but the solutions don't have to come specifically from the energy sector. They can be anything whatever business leads to a low-carbon or zero-carbon economy and something which creates fair jobs with quality wages for everybody who would be involved."
recorded in 2019