How to support regions in their just and inclusive energy transition

Three lessons learned

Currently, the European Union is experiencing several overlapping crises that threaten prosperity and peace within their Member States. Particularly, regions heavily dependent on fossil fuels or high-carbon industries are struggling severely with their transition to a greener and more sustainable economy in line with the European Green Deal.

Regions whose Territorial Just Transition Plans (TJTPs) have been approved by the European Commission are supported by the Just Transition Platform (JTP). The JTP acts as an online hub providing valuable information on Just Transition to all involved stakeholders. In addition, the JTP is offering tailor-made support to selected regions in the form of Technical Assistance and peer-to-peer exchanges.

From our on-the-ground experience we have identified three key lessons to render these transition support programmes more successful.

Lesson #1: Stakeholder engagement needs to be truly inclusive, particularly involving vulnerable societal groups

Now that most Just Transition Fund (JTF) regions have entered the implementation phase of their Territorial Just Transition Plans, it is crucial to support them in establishing and fostering transparent and effective multi-level governance mechanisms.  

“Trust has to be built and gained between NGOs, public authorities and the private sector. Only then can we achieve the development of the region and the Just Transition that everybody desires.”

Adina Vintan from Valea Jiului Society, a Romanian NGO that received support through JTP Groundwork.

Effective collaboration between different levels of government (local, regional, national) and stakeholders (e.g., citizens, civil society organizations) is a prerequisite for enabling systemic change towards a Just Transition in these regions. This holds true both for shorter-term support programs and longer-term strategic dialogue processes.

Participation and inclusion are two important key elements for implementation. When involving and mobilising stakeholders, we must always ensure that we take into account the different voices, especially those of the most vulnerable societal groups. Our experience of working with these groups shows that it is most effective to actively involve them in the process and discuss their apparent problems with them, rather than talking about them on their behalf. In the context of the JTP Groundwork Technical Assistance, it became clear that the TJTPs do not yet sufficiently support and involve young people, those affected by energy poverty, ethnic minorities or people with disabilities. Only if these people are actively involved in decision-making processes can their needs be effectively taken into account and can the EU fulfil its claim of “leave no one behind”.

Lesson #2: Stakeholders need to co-create awareness-raising campaigns and communicate strategies that cater to local specificities

We have learned that stakeholders need to be kept informed and engaged. The challenge is to ensure that all stakeholders are pulling in the same direction at all levels, from local to regional to national. In this way, we maintain an overarching message within the overall approach and a consistent flow of information. Keep stakeholders well-informed and engaged, while effectively communicating the benefits of the transition, addressing concerns, and fostering community support. This way, you can also fill an informational void, a noticeable lack of information about the overarching concept of Just Transition and the specific policies and initiatives of the EU in this regard.

We at ifok always consider inclusivity and accessibility, especially the use of national languages, to create deeper and more meaningful connections with different stakeholders. In addition, ifok can provide strategic support to JTF regions in building a new image, as we have done with our partners for the city of Sokolov in the Czech Republic.

In terms of communication tools, we should think in a variety of ways, from videos to information brochures and newsletter articles. For social media in particular, we recommend using different channels such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram and adapting the content to the specific characteristics and target groups. This increases our chances of reaching our stakeholders and getting our messages across. X (formerly known as Twitter) is not used as a source of communication by most stakeholders in the JTF regions. When choosing communication tools and content, we always prioritise quality over quantity. We focus on distributing a few key messages with a clear message. Note that the Just Transition discourse is often a purely political one. Thus, the communication style should be broad, yet tailored to actively involve and inform those who are directly impacted by the transition. We therefore start the process of developing communication items together with the local or regional beneficiaries. In that way, local specificities such as cultural heritage symbols can be considered from the start, which can give a local touch to the communication.

Furthermore, it is crucial to strategically support JTF regions to re-brand themselves. They need to create a positive vision for their unique transition where its inhabitants recognise themselves in an innovative, yet localised narrative.

To craft and roll out an impactful communication strategy, each communication activity must be aligned with specific objectives and tailored to the exact target groups. This ensures a well-calibrated outreach, creating deeper and more meaningful connections with diverse stakeholders.

Variety in communication products is another key strength, offering information to stakeholders in different ways, from videos to informative fiches and newsletter articles. Incorporating a diverse social media strategy by tailoring content to the specific characteristics and audiences of each platform, expands reach and engagement. Lastly, quality of communication items such as videos should take precedence over quantity. Focusing on a few key pieces and emphasizing dissemination, including translation into all EU languages, would ensure a targeted and impactful dissemination approach, with multilingual versions to maximize outreach.

Lesson #3: Cross-border exchanges need to involve diverse stakeholders to enable real mutual learning and the consideration of various perspectives

Collaboration across borders and exchanging best practices are often named as the most important aspects that local and regional stakeholders can gain from cross-border exchanges or Technical Assistance events. The initiatives and Technical Assistance (TA) Events facilitate the exchange of best practices, offer a snapshot of the status quo of TJTPs, open avenues for discussing challenges, and provide a stage for showcasing projects and potential solutions linked to Just Transition challenges.

Ideally, they ignite concrete collaboration between regions, creating a supportive network. By convening a diverse array of experts and stakeholders actively engaged in Just Transition projects, we can curate spaces for learning and connecting. Here, beginners in the journey can glean insights from seasoned experts while contributing their own new and innovative perspectives.

By strategically intertwining TA events, peer-to-peer exchanges, and tailored stakeholder events, involving EU, national, regional, and local representatives, JTF regions can be empowered to navigate the intricate landscape of Just Transition. Our continuous commitment lies in fostering a collaborative landscape grounded in co-creation, mutual learning, shared knowledge and support. This amplifies participant engagement and the practical application of knowledge.

It is important that JTF beneficiaries are supported by a stringent, yet supportive project management, which is happening at eye level. Language barriers and different working modes exist in the Member States. These should be considered from the start. Ideally, the timeframe available for support through exchanges or TA should be stretched to several months. Additionally, engaging in a series of workshops or events should be prioritised over focussing on one larger conference. This addresses both capacity constraints on the beneficiary side and the need to set up a tailored support scheme. A level of trust needs to be developed to enable real collaboration and mutual learning among several stakeholders. This increases the chance to achieve systemic change towards a just transition that lives up to the claim of leaving no one behind.

Contact us if you want to learn more and explore opportunities to strengthen Just Transition in the JTF regions.

The implementation of the projects involved collaboration with diverse consortium partners, such as Guidehouse, ICLEI, COWI, and the Wuppertal Institute.

Written by Besa Maraj and Julius Fischer.

Questions? Talk to us!

Julia Hoffmann

Managing Consultant | Climate and Energy

Phone+49 30 536077-74

Julius Fischer

Consultant | Climate and Energy

Phone+49 30 5360 77-04

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