Is there a transformation plan for Upper Silesia?
Silesia has a chance to be the first successful case of a just transition both in Poland and in the world. The last large coalfield in the European Union has the potential to become a modern economy leader. Vision and courage are needed. The time for the strategy for Silesia and a “Just transition” for its citizens has come.
Silesia is the region where the largest hard coal deposits in Poland are located and where it has been exploited for over 150 years. Depletion of the easily accessible resources, a large increase in labour costs, damages to the natural environment and lower prices of the imported coal lead to the end of a coal’s dominance and a few thousands decline in the number of energy sector jobs.
The answer to this problem is Just Transition, that will allow people to find new jobs and will transform the region into a modern service industrial area. The area that will live up to the level of other European post-industrial regions.
“Black gold” fever is over
According to the Wise analyzes, detailed forecasts of the extraction profitability indicate that by 2050, the extraction of the energy coal in the region will cease. Only the most efficient coking coal mines will have a chance to sustain oneself, and only if they will improve their productivity and significantly reduce their employment. In total, by 2050, the number of jobs in the energy sector will decline below 10,000 and will be over seven times lower than it is today. In the next dozen years, the number of permanent jobs will decline even more and reach approximately 20,000 placements. Neither modern coal mining technologies nor so-called “clean coal technologies” will reverse this trend.
Nowadays effective transition is fostered by the great awareness of the necessity to change, both at the EU level and a local government, as well as the good economic situation. Because of that, it is easier to find funds for infrastructure investments, urban revitalization and programs providing support to those leaving the coal industry. Silesia has an excellent localization, a high urbanization rate and is characterized by a great potential to create a highly qualified workforce. Additionally, a just transition of the energy sector creates an opportunity for the Upper Silesia to boost a sustainable growth and achieve GDP per capita similar to other post-industrial regions in Europe.
What should be done to use Silesian assets? First and foremost, an effective Silesian Voivodeship development policy should take into account that the end of the hard coal mining is inevitable. Highly industrialized European regions base their economies on efficient industrial processing, not the mining sector.
Increasing the competitiveness of the voivodship's economy require a long-term modernization policy that takes into account several factors. Firstly, it is important to focus on the engineering, electrical and electronic, chemical or pharmaceutical industries. Secondly, put attention to the development of the advanced services, including engineering, IT, R & D and consulting. Thirdly, improve the competitiveness of universities and research institutes.
Last but not least, it is essential to improve the quality of the air and a condition of the natural environment. Revitalization requires the creation of an efficient public transport network that would contribute to an integration of the local labour markets.
Cost of transition
In order to finance low-emission modernization of the region legal changes at the national level, private funds mobilization, as well as an effective combination of diversified public sources of finance, are required. The best way to do it is to co-finance low-carbon investments with allocated funds acquired from the sale of the EU ETS allowances.
The conditions for a successful transition can be summarized in four points: a dialogue between stakeholders, planning, finance and care for employees in the energy sector. Applying these points as a guideline, a vision for Silesia that is coherent with the EU climate policies up to 2050 can be built. We have to start the conversation now!
The scale of challenges for the region are described in our latest report: "From restructuring to a sustainable development. The case of Upper Silesia ", prepared for WWF Polska by WiseEuropa and in the movie: "We are from here! Success factors of Silesia transformation" ,directed by Artur Burchacki.
The report and the movie can be found in the attachments to the press release.
For those attending COP24: special screening of the movie describing Silesia region will take place on 13th December at 3 p.m. in a Panda Hub.