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Just Transition Session at the 32nd Session of the Committee of Sustainable Energy

Just Transition Session at the 32nd Session of the Committee of Sustainable Energy

15 September 2023 11:30 - 12:30
Geneva Switzerland



The goals of the session were to Present to the Committee of Sustainable Energy a new concept of coal, in which the latter is not a fuel but a multi-purpose resource, and thus significantly broadens the range of opportunities for just transition strategies. 


There is increasing evidence, and recognition, that clean energy transitions require new technologies to serve the energy needs of growing and advancing economies. While coal as a fuel may be at varying stages of decline globally, its value as a critical resource for the emerging needs of clean energy economies is in its very early stages of development. Coal should not be simply burnt for energy production. To the contrary, its true value lies in its potential to be refined and utilized for high value resources, such as graphene, carbon nanotubes, lithium, Rare Earth Elements, cobalt, and manganese, as well as other materials. 

Recognizing coal’s hidden potential gives an opportunity to preserve coal extraction and thus save jobs, and avoid the majority of the negative environmental impacts caused by the current end use of coal. Furthermore, a new approach to coal extraction and use will create new jobs in industries essential to development of a green economy. As a result of exploiting this unrealized potential, transition of the coal regions will expose communities to less cultural and social shocks. New opportunities for modernization of coalmining will be created by re-orienting the coal mining ecosystem towards development of innovative hi-tech industries organized in clusters around existing but redesigned coal mines that provide new enterprises with valuable feedstock. 

In addition, the proposed approach offers new options for financing the transition. It is because by removing the risk of having certain coal assets stranded, it gives financial institutions an opportunity to preserve them, thus freeing significant resources for investments needed in infrastructural projects, which not only depend on the feedstock provided by coal companies, but make the business case for coal mines continued existence as a crucial element of the new green economy. 

Addressesd Issues 

The session had a form of a panel that was preceeded by on oppening context setting presentation, which constituted a basis for a general discussion and States' interventions. The session was moderated by the Chair of the Group of Experts on Coal Mine Methane and Just Transition, and it addressed the following issues:

  • What products can be produced from coal?
    • How do those products fit the needs of the green economy?
  • What are the social and cultural problems related to just transition? 
    • What social protection mechanisms need to be developed to ensure that transition is just?
    • What are the social and cultural benefits of preserving coal mining?
  • How would coal-centered clusters be designed and what would be needed to build them?
    • What are the expected costs, who would cover them, and how do they compare to the costs of the transition based on a complete coal phase-out?
    • What new financial solutions does this approach offer?
  • Where would energy for powering such clusters come from?
    • Could coal mine methane be used for hydrogen production?
    • What are the opportunities for repurposing the post-mining land to host clean energy production or storage?
  • The environmental aspect of the proposed transition.
    • Compare the full value chain environmental impact of obtaining the products in question from locally available coal with the environmental impact of alternatives (what are they?)
  • What can UNECE do to help its member States ensure a just transition?