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Just Transition

The Group's Approach

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

A new economic profile proposed for each region set for transition should correspond to local capabilities, the resource base and needs, and take into account such matters as the existing and the desired educational and professional training directions, regional transportation patterns, the existing infrastructure, as well as the applicable regulatory and legal frameworks.

However, energy transformation has more than the two dimensions of technology and finance. To ensure the social acceptance of the transition and the fairness of the process itself as well as its outcome, which is necessary for assuring the sustainability of the proposed esolutions, policies focused on alleviating the expected social shocks and providing protective measures for the affected communities must be developed in an inclusive manner and implemented gradually as the transition progresses.

People’s non-economic needs such as those related to their pride and social status, sense of identity and belonging to a given community, and adherence to a given culture and heritage should also be taken into consideration. 

To prevent civil unrest and ensure the sustainability of the proposed solutions a holistic strategy aimed at long-term development and encompassing all aspects of transition, i.e., social, cultural, economic, and environmental, is necessary.

Ensuring a just transition shares activities that are key to twelve of the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by UN Member States as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The Group of Experts seeks to support ECE member States in their efforts to achieve climate goals and simultaneously ensure quality of life and decent jobs for their citizens, as well as prosperity and good perspectives for the legacy industry-oriented regions undergoing the transition.

To learn more about the concept of Just Transition please click here.

Related Documents

Official Documents 

ECE/ENERGY/2021/14 - Responding to the challenges of a just transition in the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe sustainable energy subprogramme
ECE/ENERGY/GE.4/2022/4 - Cultural issues: managing the social aspects of the transition of industries along the coal value chain and coal-dependent regions (available also in French and Russian)
ECE/ENERGY/GE.4/2023/7 - Just Transition – the check list

Informal Documents and presentations

Presentation on Just Transition

Just Transition and a New Concept for Coal

Coal in the 21st Century