Drift or Navigation?

Coal Regions Facing Transition

The cost of reducing CO2₂ emissions in Poland will be much lower than the cost of failing to do so. Progressing the decarbonisation of Poland will require initiative and bold government action, especially in providing support to coal regions and their communities. Time is running out to make the necessary changes, but it is still not too late to carry out a successful Just Transition.

The need to restructure Poland’s energy sector appeared already at the beginning of the Third Republic
of Poland, along with the transformation of the political and economic system. Successive governments
have attempted reforms focused on coal mining and aimed at improving the productivity and profitability
of mining companies. However, the actions taken by successive governments have proved largely inadequate to the actual challenge. It was not only to reduce employment in the mining industry and improve its efficiency but also to transform local economic ecosystems and protect local communities from the negative consequences of radical changes in this area.

The reforms were a compromise between the need to restructure an increasingly obsolete, unprofitable mining sector, pressure from a powerful interest group (i.e., unionised workers), and policymakers’ fear of politically unpopular decisions. As a result, key social, economic and energy security challenges have been postponed for three decades. Over the years, these challenges have been joined by another one – climate.

The following report presents the situation in three areas of transition related to the decarbonisation
of Silesia — hard coal mining region — as well as Bełchatów Basin Area [Zagłębie Bełchatowskie] and
Turoszów Basin Area [Zagłębie Turoszowskie] — two lignite mining regions (coalfields).

We analysed the basic economic, social and political conditions, as well as the comprehensiveness of
the challenge. The report provides a look at how Poland is handling the transformation of the mining
and energy sector and the regions that depend on it, and how prepared it is to take advantage of
the Just Transition Mechanism. The diagnosis of the status quo made it possible to create practical
recommendations for the transition process, addressed in particular to decision-makers – hosts and
animators of the process.

The actual (and not merely formal) inclusion of local stakeholders in the decision-making
process will determine whether the transition will indeed prove “just”, i.e. whether it will gain social
legitimacy and thus secure support at the lowest levels of the process. Importantly, the group is also
an indispensable source of knowledge about local conditions, the consideration of which determines
the course and success of the transition. It is with these conditions that we begin our analysis.