Frans Timmermans visits Eastern Greater Poland – takeaways for the just transition model


18th May 2023 Vice President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans visited the Eastern Greater Poland region, which is on track to phase out coal by 2024 – decades ahead of the rest of Poland. This initiative could serve as a model for the just transition of other coal regions in the country. However, decision bottlenecks in both Warsaw and Brussels threaten to hinder progress. Instrat works closely with stakeholders in the region to make the just transition happen.

Frans Timmermans’ visit to Konin provided an opportunity to discuss the concrete support that the European Commission can provide by expediting the decision-making process regarding state aid for workers. The Vice President declared in Konin that Eastern Greater Poland has the potential to serve as a blueprint for coal regions in Poland. For two years now the local trade unions have been awaiting funds from the Just Transition Fund. Full-scale financing of the comprehensive employee program is contingent upon approval from Brussels. Approximately PLN 150’000 (ca. 30’000 EUR) is required to employ each former miner and their colleagues from the power plant. 

Eastern Greater Poland has the potential to become the first coal region in Poland to move away from coal by 2024, in line with the Paris Agreement, and achieve climate neutrality by 2040 – a decade earlier than the EU’s overall target. In 2021, the region became the first in Poland to join the international Powering Past Coal Alliance (PPCA). The coalition, comprising over 160 countries, local governments, and companies, is committed to phasing out coal and promoting clean energy sources.

Michal Hetmanski, just transition expert and CEO Instrat Foundation, who supported the region and local communities on the road to coal phase-out, says: “The coal phase-out in the Polish energy sector will be most painful not for Upper Silesia, with viable alternatives and more time ahead, but for the lignite regions of Konin, Bełchatów and Turów. The most carbon-intensive lignite will be phased-out of the electricity mix firstly due to rising CO2 prices and new renewable energy sources coming into the grid. Therefore it requires special support and attention. Based on reliable data and dialogue with local government, the employer and the trade unions, it has been possible to develop a viable transition plan, boost fundraising and prepare pilot reskilling initiatives, but there is a lack of political will to implement these projects and deliver them on time.”

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