The Green Tank at the 3rd Forum of Just Transition Mayors

Ioanna Theodosiou and Nikos Mantzaris from The Green Tank participated in the 3rd Forum of Mayors on Just Transition. The Forum, co-organized by the Mayor of Bytom, Poland, and 4 WWF offices (Poland, Germany, Bulgaria and Greece) seeks to bring together mayors of coal and lignite regions from across Europe to exchange good practices and explore joint actions on issues related to the shift of the local economies towards a sustainable direction.

The 3rd (online) Forum, took place during a crucial time for the entire transition process in the EU when the Regulation of the European Just Transition Fund, the main financial pillar for supporting coal and lignite regions across the EU, is being discussed between the three EU Institutions.

During the 3rd Forum, mayors and participants from various NGOs had the opportunity to exchange views and present the particular problems they face in their regions due to the drastic reduction of coal and lignite activity in recent years.

During the discussion, Nikos Mantzaris informed the participants about the progress of the Territorial Just Transition Plans in Greece and to emphasize the need for greater involvement of mayors and local communities as a whole in their development and implementation through a multi-participatory governance system.

The Forum was also attended by representatives of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Regional Development (DG REGIO) and associates of the Executive Vice-President of the European Commission, F. Timmermans, who shed light on various aspects of the new Regulation. In particular, the Commission representatives defended the criteria for the allocation of resources among the Member States selected by the Commission, saying that new criteria proposed such as the speed of transition or the unemployment rate in coal and lignite regions either cannot be determined transparently or they are simply unsuitable.

The representatives of the Green Tank argued that the transition speed can be determined with full transparency by the publicly submitted National Energy and Climate Plans of all Member States and the publicly available data in European emissions databases on Greenhouse Gas Emissions from lignite and coal plants. Regarding the unemployment rate in coal and lignite regions, the Green Tank representatives commented that they can also be determined transparently from Eurostat data, while this criterion should be included with the rest of the allocation criteria because it quantifies the magnitude of the transition challenge faced in the various coal and lignite regions.

We note that in July 2020 the Green Tank had presented an analysis exploring the quantitative effect of different allocation criteria proposed as amendments in the European Parliament Committees on the distribution of the Fund resources between Member States. In addition, SYRIZA MEPs P. Kokkalis and D. Papadimoulis tabled specific amendments that incorporate the 2 new criteria in the Plenary Session of the European Parliament, which were supported by the Greek MEPs of ND, SYRIZA and KINAL. In addition, the mayors of the 5 lignite municipalities sent a letter to the Plenary Session of the European Parliament urging MEPs from all political groups to make the distribution of resources fairer for those Member States that have committed to a forward bearing de-lignification process and their economies are deeply dependent on coal- and lignite-related activities.

The creation of a Forum of Mayors for the cooperation in matters related to Just Transition was initiated by the former mayor of Kozani Lefteris Ioannidis, who in collaboration with WWF Greece and under the auspices of the Network of Greek Energy Municipalities organized the 1st such Forum in September 2018 in Kozani. This was followed by the 2nd Forum in Weisswasser, Germany in September 2019, where the mayors formalized their cooperation by co-signing a Declaration of common understanding and joint actions on issues related to the Just Transition of their regions at the national and european levels.