BOLSTER is far away from being a desk-research type of action. The project team works hard to involve and establish very strong links with at least seven so-called “target regions” that are strongly affected by the European Green Deal-related policies. They are Hainaut in Belgium, Halle in Germany, Istria in Croatia, Leon in Spain, Prahova in Romania, Stara Zagora in Bulgaria and Upper Silesia in Poland (see Target and Study Regions). Thus, researchers must stay in touch with key stakeholders of the transition and dive deep into the activities of communities in the selected regions.
In all target regions, BOLSTER has the Local Just Transition Alliances (LJTAs) – groups of experts who support BOLSTER partners navigating through regional policy and practice concerning the just transition. The alliances shape activities undertaken by the project to make its intervention the most relevant for the area. They also safeguard gathering empirical evidence for research.
All LJTAs were formed in May-June 2023. The meetings aimed at presenting the conceptual framework of BOLSTER and the results of just transition stakeholders’ mapping. The members were invited to reflect upon the findings to know and refer to the most relevant ways of approaching the (potentially) marginalised communities. All meetings were facilitated by BOLSTER researchers from the respective region.
Key-results of the meetings:
- LJTAs on just transition stakeholders and planning
- The understanding of the multiple layers that are at play in the just transition plans for the regions was well received by LJTAs
- In many cases the need for addressing the historical, cultural, and social issues that have an impact on structural change in the regions was stressed
- The term “transition” still has negative connotations for people in many places, particularly due to experiences with privatization, restructuring and job losses in post-socialist countries, 30-20 years ago.
- Efforts need to be made to effectively communicate the positive aspects and potential benefits of a just transition to overcome these negative associations.
- Overall, the NGOs seem to be underrepresented, while the lead on proposing projects is taken by public sector and large/larger companies. There are different approaches to Territorial Just Transition Plans’ preparation and implementation.
- LJTAs members called for more workshops and roundtable discussions, as means to facilitate open discussions, build trust between the different players, and increase the inflow of bottom-up initiatives.
- Counter fighting the disinformation on green policies and rumours on their sudden negative impact on certain companies, emerged as an important issue.
- Planning the just transition involves the expectations to improve connection between research, education, and small and medium enterprises. Especially for the sake of boosting the green and digital economy by overcoming a shortage of professionals having the necessary skills and competencies. Catering for the youth needs concerning education, job opportunities and place attractiveness is critical to achieving younger generations’ retention in the areas facing radical structural change.
- Some LJTAs pinpointed the need for adding a focus on health, housing, mobility, and land use planning.
- LJTAs on approaching marginalised communities
- Many LJTAs members encouraged the partnership to either better define or to disaggregate the term “marginalised communities”, finding it too generic and a kind of floating signifier. The experts pinpointed that BOLSTER may face different kinds of marginalisation.
- Some communities are not interested in being involved in policy/development activities, the others are purposely not invited or not well received; finally, many stakeholders share a feeling that they can express their opinion – whereas the proposals are “unheard” or simply ignored.
- The majority stressed the importance of approaching the youth and adults up to 25-30 (35) years of age as they might be the drivers of change and – primarily – they are making decisions concerning the selection of their place to live. Taking the perspective of young people, attention should also be paid to involving teachers and school principals, although this faces many challenges (staff’s knowledge, limited capacity on new technologies, traditional educational programmes…).
- Age-wise, also the needs of senior citizens should be more listened to. Especially though in many locations their problems might differ a lot compared to younger generations: energy poverty, social problems (incl. ageing and poor jobs/unemployment) and energy problems (no insulation, coal-based heating)
- Further list encompasses workers (those who will experience direct challenges due to the industrial changes), women (especially in single-parent households and non-working wives of man employed in mining or industry), people with disabilities, victims of “social dumping”, Roma community and minorities, SMEs/freelancers, poor renters, poor landlords or homeowners, individuals facing intersectional socio-economic challenges.
- Many LJTAs members stressed that reactions regarding forthcoming energy transition, especially among marginalised communities, are negative. Their point of view is that someone is trying to impose changes that will only deteriorate their lives. They are suspicious of outside organisations lobbying for this transition to take place irrespective of the consequences for the local people.
Note: The content of this news item is based on BOLSTER’s Deliverable 3.1. In case you are interested in reading it, reference it or if you would like to know more about BOLSTER and LJTAs, you should contact the principal investigator, Dr. Michiel Stapper at Tilburg University (email@example.com) or Dr. Marcin Baron, who leads the Work Package 3, at the University of Economics in Katowice (firstname.lastname@example.org).