Green jobs in coal regions. Case study: Bełchatów.

Report: Green investments can generate up to 6 times more jobs in the Bełchatów region than is currently created by the lignite complex

The łódzkie voivodeship may become the second largest beneficiary of the Just Transition Mechanism, EU funds for transformation of coal regions – as reported by experts from think tank Instrat in a study commissioned by ClientEarth. The report suggests that 61 thousand jobs may be created in green investments. This is six times more than the current employment in mining and lignite combustion at the Bełchatów Power Plant. The funds can be acquired under the condition that the region establishes a Just Transition Territorial Plan and the government pledges to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. 

The report analyses the potential for creating new jobs in the Bełchatów region, based on the acquisition of EU funds for the just transition. According to Instrat, green jobs can more than replace the current employment in mining and lignite combustion at the Bełchatów lignite complex.

“Supporters of the coal economy claim that ending coal combustion will result in a wave of mass layoffs in power plants and mines. It is quite the opposite – using the example of Bełchatów, we show that green investments can generate up to six times more jobs than the Bełchatów Power Plant and Open Pit-Mine Complex currently employs” explains Paweł Czyżak, co-author of the study. “The key step in this process is the government’s declaration of achieving climate neutrality by 2050 – without it, funds for just transition will be twice as low, and Bełchatów will lose 25 thousand potential jobs” – adds Czyżak.

The Lodzkie Region has a chance to obtain up to PLN 45 billion (EUR 10 billion) from European funds for the 2021-2027 period, including PLN 13 billion (EUR 3 billion) from the Just Transition Mechanism, or half of these funds if Poland does not pledge to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. 

This amount is comparable to the total value of EU funds allocated to projects in this area since Poland’s accession to the EU. Green investments that will be created thanks to these funds may generate 61 thousand jobs compared to only 10 thousand current jobs in the Bełchatów lignite complex. 

Authors adapted a methodology established in the recent reports of Joint Research Centre, think tank of the European Commission.

The largest employment, as many as 25 thousand people, will be generated by investments in thermal retrofit of buildings, 19 thousand – large photovoltaic installations, 6.5 thousand – prosumer solar energy and 4.8 thousand – production of batteries for electric vehicles. With the involvement of private financing – local business and international financial institutions – these numbers can be several times higher.

“The involvement of private investors and international development institutions will be crucial in scaling the potential benefits of the just transition in the Bełchatów region. The funding needed for a just transition is significant, but it can be obtained with instruments such as green and sustainable bonds or hybrid financing” notes Katarzyna Szwarc, co-author of the report and leader of the research program Sustainable Finance for Just Transition at Instrat.

The main goal of the EU’s Just Transition Mechanism and the Just Transition Fund is to create jobs and maintain the economic potential of regions that move away from coal. Financial aid is allocated according to three criteria: the amount of greenhouse gas emissions in the region, employment in industry and employment in the mining. 

The lodzkie voivodeship, thanks to the complex in Bełchatów, has the highest CO2 emissions in Poland, which gives it a chance to receive significant funds from this mechanism. The condition for receiving 50% of the funds is to prepare the Territorial Just Transition Plan and submit it to the European Commission by the end of 2020. The second 50% of the funds will be granted if Poland and the region agree to adopt the goal of climate neutrality by 2050.

“The Just Transition Fund is a great opportunity for the Lodzkie Region, residents of the Bełchatów region and employees of the mine and power plant complex. Lignite deposits in Bełchatów will run out in the next 10-15 years, whereas the maintenance costs of the largest CO2 emitter in Europe are becoming higher and higher as the prices of emission allowances grow. The European Union declares significant support in the development of green jobs and green technologies, but in return, European institutions expect an end to the combustion of coal, which is harmful to the environment and climate, ”says Ilona Jędrasik from the ClientEarth, non-governmental organisation which commissioned the report. 

“Local authorities and the PGE company must therefore make a quick and clear decision on the gradual closure of the power plant and abandon the construction of a new lignite mine in Złoczew” – adds Jędrasik.

New green jobs are a chance for the region to keep young people. According to the research commissioned by the regional NGO Źródła, as many as 46% of students of upper secondary schools from Bełchatów and its vicinity intend to leave the region after graduating from school. The reasons for such a decision are, among others, the lack of development opportunities, the desire to improve the quality of life and poor quality of the environment.

Poland is the only European Union country that has not signed the declaration of achieving climate neutrality by 2050. 

The executive summary in English is available here
Full report in Polish is available here.

We recommend citation:

Czyżak et al. (2020). Green jobs. The case of the Bełchatów region. Instrat Policy Paper 04/2020.
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