Ukraine declares a course for just transition (JT). This will primarily affect the regions that depend on coal mining and combustion. While statements of readiness for JT are being heard at the national and local levels, concrete steps are needed now.
It is these considerations that have become the key points of the High Level Forum “Just Transition of Coal Regions: From Plans to Action!”. The organizers of the event are the NGO Ecoaction, Luhansk Regional Human Rights Center “Alternative” and Germanwatch.
The event was attended by representatives of national and regional authorities, international organizations, ministries, business, research institutions and the public sector. They shared their views on three main topics of the forum: the development of economic diversification, human resources and the energy transition of mining cities.
Panel 1: Economic diversification of coal communities
- Representatives of mining cities can and should propose ideas for their own projects within the framework of the State Target Program for Just Transition of Coal Regions of Ukraine by 2030, which should be developed by the end of March 2022. In September 2021, the government approved the Concept of this program.
- According to the mayors of mining cities, it is important to ensure the synergy of national and local initiatives in the process of just transition. Currently, there is a lack of a clear algorithm for cooperation between the regions and the capital. The Platform for Sustainable Development of Coal Towns of Donetsk Oblast – which includes 9 mining towns, 3 NGOs from the region and the Donetsk Chamber of Commerce and Industry – can provide excellent cooperation opportunities on this issue.
- People in mining towns are afraid that Ukraine will give up coal soon. The state must have a clear plan for such a transition and clear communication on how it will provide new jobs or social guarantees for the laid off workers.
Panel 2: How to strengthen the human resources of coal communities for new sectors of the economy
- The process of human resources development and human capital is a large-scale and long-term process. It must take into account the interests not only of miners but also of their families.
- The government should propose general programs for reskilling and developing entrepreneurial potential in mining regions. At the same time, local authorities should help the government to define clear profiles of people who will need help: their age, interests, needs and more.
- The Ministry of Education and Science needs to be involved in the transformation processes. It is also necessary to strengthen coordination between other ministries, in particular: the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Economy, the Ministry of Regional Development.
- Human skills are the key to a just transition. Improving existing or getting new ones is not an easy process. According to a study by the International Labor Organization, only 20% of people will be able to get a new job with existing skills, and at least 60% will need reskilling.
Panel 3: How to start the energy transition today
- By 2050, Ukraine must become climate-neutral in the electricity sector. Similar promises are made from the government.
- At the same time, according to international partners and experts, the statements are good, but real action for the energy transition should begin today. Ukraine must ensure the active development of energy efficiency and renewable energy sources for small households.
- The issue of just transition is taken care of by various agencies, but it seems that there is no single decision-making center.
- Coal phase-out is something that is talked about a lot in Ukraine. However, it is necessary to form lists of mines to be closed and lists of concrete measures for just transition, painted over the years. This is important for local authorities who are waiting for these guidelines, having a responsibility for the future and development of their cities and communities.