The future of coal regions depends on joint efforts

Mr. Vladimír Budinský, EURACOAL President (right) and Mr. Stanislaw Tillich, German Federal Government Commissioner for Structural Change in the Ukrainian Coal-Mining Regions at the ІV International Coal Conference, Kyiv, 13 July 2021

On 13 July 2021, the ІV International Coal Conference “Coal regions of Ukraine: just transition and coal mining – Ukrainian and international experience” took place at Academy DTEK in Kyiv. More than two hundred experts from Ukraine and EU countries discussed the coal industry transition.  Representatives of the Ukrainian government and large businesses, leaders of trade unions and directors of regional authorities joined thematic sessions on:

  • Achieving carbon neutrality and leveraging opportunities for coal communities
  • Coal mining in the context of the green energy transition, and
  • Just transition for the coal regions – possibilities for economic diversification of mono-towns.

The experts agreed that a successful transition of Ukraine’s coal regions heavily depends on the engagement of public authorities, local communities, international partners and corporate businesses.

Mr. Denys Shmyhal, the Prime Minister of Ukraine, noted that by sharing the values of the European Green Deal, Ukraine is taking meaningful steps towards its energy independence while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, gradually phasing out fossil fuels and lowering the carbon intensity of its industry. At the same, he envisaged a social transition of those towns and cities that depend on coal mining and coal-fired power generation. “We are actively discussing with the EU, the World Bank and other partners the just transition of our coal regions, following the example of the EU’s Just Transition programme. A complex just transition policy for the coal regions is being elaborated on the country level. Our task is to implement the necessary incentives to enable these regions to become attractive places for investment and to design a comprehensive plan for creating new jobs, as well as to bring new opportunities for small and medium business development,” stressed the Prime Minister.

German Federal Government Commissioner for Structural Change in the Ukrainian Coal-Mining Regions, Mr. Stanislaw Tillich, addresses the ІV International Coal Conference, Kyiv, 13 July 2021

Mr. Stanislaw Tillich, the German Federal Government Commissioner for Structural Change in the Ukrainian Coal-Mining Regions, said, “In August last year, we signed the German-Ukrainian Energy Partnership with the Ukrainian Government to share the experience in transformation of coal industry in our country.” This five-year, €35 million programme will support Ukraine’s decision to embark on transition, “because such a decision concerns both coal miners and the necessary societal support for decarbonisation.” He suggested exploring firstly the development potential and prospects for the mining regions, to include reskilling workers and identifying risks.

EURACOAL President, Mr. Vladimír Budinský, speaks at the ІV International Coal Conference, Kyiv, 13 July 2021

President of EURACOAL, Mr. Vladimír Budinský outlined the European Green Deal, including the impact on the coal sector of new legislative proposals to be published the following day (the Fit-for-55 package of 14 July) which would mean further change for all coal regions across Europe. Coming seventy years after the start of the European Coal and Steel Community was established in 1952, this change offered new prospects for the coal regions as power generation switched away from coal combustion. Mr. Budinský advised Ukraine “to focus on the future, innovate as quickly as possible, diversify your generation portfolio, invest in people, and keep all options open.” On the energy transition – which he said was a jump into the unknown – Mr Budinský could not predict the energy system of 2050, but promised it would be better, “just as our energy system today is better than it was in 1952 when King Coal dominated.”

According to Mr. Ildar Salieiev, CEO of DTEK Energy, his company has been supporting coal communities to develop road maps for a just transition over the last three years or more. “DTEK fully shares the European values”, he said. With the support of DTEK Energy, Dobropillia became Ukraine’s first coal city to follow a path of economic diversification and he pointed to the more than forty projects aimed at creating new jobs in various sectors of the local economy: from construction to services. Mr. Salieiev added that the Dnipropetrovsk region was following the same path, again with DTEK’s support.