By Patrick Lehmann-Grube

2021 saw a breakthrough on the role of global cooperation in advancing the transition from coal. At COP26 leaders of France, Germany, the UK, the US and the EU announced the ground-breaking international Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP) to support South Africa’s decarbonisation efforts. 

It was designed and led by South Africa’s government, supported by donors. This model to support a just transition was a result of inter- and intra-governmental coordination. The details of the JETP have yet to be finalised and its impact cannot be determined at this point. Still, the partnership illustrates the importance of cooperation in securing a just transition away from coal.  

It is within this context that Climate Strategies in collaboration with the Wuppertal Institute recently hosted a workshop on strengthening cooperation for a just transition. It aimed to better understand how stakeholders can leverage cooperation to ensure just transitions across the globe. First, high-level experts and policymakers shared their perspectives. Afterwards, more than 80 stakeholders from around the globe discussed how their regions manage coal transitions.  

Perspectives from around the globe 

The high-level panel discussion was facilitated by Megan Rowling, Just Transition editor at the Thomson Reuters Foundation. A diverse group of panellists took part in the discussion and gave presentations: 

  • Stuart Mangold, Director of Africa and Bilateral Relations for the South African Department of Environmental Affairs, 
  • Dudu Sibiya representing the Mpumalanga Department of Agriculture, Rural Development, Land and Environmental Affairs in South Africa, 
  • Annegret al-Janabi, Senior Policy Officer from the Climate Finance Unit of the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development,
  • Fabby Tumiwa, Executive Director at Institute for Essential Services Reform in Indonesia 
  • Srestha Banerjee Director of the Indian Just Transition Centre, 
  • Alex Saer, Director of Climate Change and Risk Management of the Colombian Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development and 
  • Ana Tamborrel, Just Transition Manager for the Iniciativa Climática de México.  

Given the experts’ geographic and sectoral diversity, they could shed light on various aspects and issues related to cooperation for Just Transitions across the globe.  

The experts’ view: Just Transition must be central to government policy

Here are some of the key takeaways from the discussion: 

  1. Just Transitions cannot simply be a consideration but must become central to government policy for successful coal transitions.  
  1. We need greater alignment between different layers of government i.e. national, regional, and local government. This alignment is critical as coal mining and use are often concentrated in specific regions within countries, making those regions especially vulnerable to the impacts of coal phase-outs. 
  1. In addition, the coal economy has links with other economic sectors, including the informal economy. All involved stakeholders should thus not limit coordination and alignment just to policymaking, but also extend them to implementing just transition programmes.  
  1. Engaging relevant stakeholders is vital, particularly communities and workers whose livelihood is most under threat from a transition. This will make it more likely policies and programmes will have a meaningful impact.  
A Just Transition Toolbox for practitioners

At the event, Timon Wehnert from Wuppertal Institute introduced the Just Transition Toolbox. The toolbox has five key themes: strategy, governance, energy, industry, and employment. It offers tools and guidance for practitioners in coal regions undergoing transitions, and includes multiple case studies from across the globe, highlighting lessons learned, best practices, and mistakes we can avoid.  

Connecting coal transition practitioners

Afterwards, attendees unpacked the challenges and opportunities to international collaboration to support just energy transitions in smaller groups. They also shared ideas on the tools and approaches needed to ease a just transition.  

Participants highlighted several challenges and aspects of just coal transitions and international collaboration: 

  1. Greater coordination and cooperation amongst national government and local governments is crucial, particularly as it relates to developing impactful and targeted policies, programme implementation, and the financing needed for Just Transitions. This is also important as there continues to be gaps in regional needs and national policymaking and discussions, often resulting in incoherent messaging and planning. This is partially due to the lack of credible data and engagement at a local level which makes it hard for policy to make targeted and impactful decisions. 
  1. For successful international cooperation, participants asked what form should this cooperation entail: Can it only be funding or do we need more, for example technology transfers and support for reskilling?  
  1. As for the burden of transition, participants emphasised the need for tangible support from developed countries for developing countries. It is vital that support does not only serve the interests of international financers, but also speaks to local demands and needs, thereby ensuring co-benefits. 

To find out more and watch the event in full, please find the recording on the event page