No person and no place is left behind – How is the EU Green Deal planning to take economic solidarity into account?

There is very little doubt that climate change is real, and a number of Conventions and Treaties have demonstrated that States do believe in the scientific community and are willing to act to solve the problem. Since the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the IPCC’s report confirming that global warming is caused by human activity, a number of efforts have been taken to reduce emissions, in order to try and stop the devastating effects that long-term climate change could have on the environment.[1] European countries have abided by the reductions imposed by the Kyoto Protocol, going as far as “over-achieving” the first commitment period reductions.[2] It is then not a surprise that the EU has set sails to achieve even more, and to possibly become a leader in the sector, by signing the EU Green Deal in 2019.

The EU Green Deal set out to be a framework of regulations and legislations with the objective to achieve a net zero carbon emission for the entire European Union by 2050, and a reduction of emissions by 50-55% by 2030 (compared to 1990 levels). In the official document released by the Commission, it is further stated that the overarching objective also includes an economic growth decoupled from resource use, as well as an inclusive character for people and regions that would need the most support.[3]

While the Deal has many features worth spending more time on, one in particular is the focus of this article: the Just Transition Mechanism (JTM).[4] This mechanism supports the solidarity goal that no person and no place is left behind. The JTM is a key tool as can be seen in the wording of the vice-president of the Commission Frans Timmermans: 

“we must show solidarity with the most affected regions in Europe such as coal mining regions and others, to make sure the European Green Deal gets everyone’s full support and has a chance to become a reality.”[5]

This mechanism is composed of three different pillars and aims to provide at least 150 billion euros between 2021 and 2027 to support the areas which are most affected by socio-economic impacts of the transition.[6] The first pillar of this mechanism is the Just Transition Fund (JTF), which has been proposed by the Commission on the 14th January 2020 and has been already increased in its budget by about 35 billion due to the Coronavirus pandemic in May 2020.[7]

The process to receive funds is characterized by a dialogue between Member States and the Commission, based on the analysis of the European Semester and the Commission’s proposal for priority regions and sectors, which can be found within the European Semester Country Reports and Communications.[8] Since Member States are yet to submit their Territorial Just Transition Plans, no final decision on the regions who will receive the funding exist at the moment.[9]However, Annex D of the 2020 European Semester Country Reports gives us a good indication.

Within the 2020 European Semester Annex D, the Commission presents a list of proposed areas that may be beneficiaries of the fund.[10] The benefitting regions are the ones which are most relying on solid fossil fuel extraction and use for energy purposes, and greenhouse gas intensive industries.[11] This report represents a thorough analysis of socio-economic challenges of macro-economic relevance Member States face and focuses on those regions that will be challenged the most by the new sustainability goals.[12]

Annex D: Proposed Regions

One example close to home is the Province of Groningen. According to the Commission’s report, the area is likely to be the most affected by the climate and energy transition as it heavily relies on large carbon-intensive clusters for employment.[13] In fact, it is estimated that the transition will lead to the loss of at least 20,000 jobs. The area of Groningen is therefore elected the most probable to receive the funding of the JTF, that could target in particular upskilling and reskilling of workers, investment in research and innovation activities, and deployment of technology and infrastructures for affordable clean energy etc.[14]

The European Union is once again showing willingness to carve the path for the future of climate change regulation and legislation and set an example for other countries to take inspiration from, even in the field of economic solidarity. The JTF is yet to come into concrete being, all we can do is wait and see how it will play out within the next few months and what will be its effects in the next few years.


[1] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, ‘Second Assessment’ Climate Change 1995; and United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 1992.

[2] ‘EU over-achieved first Kyoto emissions target, on track to meet 2020 objective’ European Commission Official Website, <https://ec.europa.eu/clima/news/articles/news_2013100901_en >.

[3]  COM (2019) 640, Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the European Council, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, ‘The European Green Deal’.

[4] ‘The Just transition Mechanism: making sure no one is left behind’, European Commission Official Website, 

https://ec.europa.eu/info/strategy/priorities-2019-2024/european-green-deal/actions-being-taken-eu/just-transition-mechanism_en > &  Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the European Council, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, ‘The European Green Deal’, 2019 p. 16.

[5] Ibid.

[6] ‘The Just transition Mechanism: making sure no one is left behind’, European Commission Official Website, 

https://ec.europa.eu/info/strategy/priorities-2019-2024/european-green-deal/actions-being-taken-eu/just-transition-mechanism_en > &  COM (2019) 640, Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the European Council, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, ‘The European Green Deal’, p. 16.

[7] COM (2020) 22, ‘Final Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and Council Establishing the Just Transition Fund’ & COM (2020) 460, ‘Final Amended Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and Council Establishing the Just Transition Fund’. 

[8] COM (2020) 150 ‘Final Communication by the Commission: 2020 European Semester’.

[9] Ibid, p. 7.

[10] ‘European Semester 2020: Overview of Investment Guidance on the Just Transition Fund 2021-2027 per Member State (Annex D)’, <https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/annex_d_crs_2020_en.pdf >

[11] COM (2020) 150 ‘Final Communication by the Commission: 2020 European Semester’, p. 7.

[12] Ibid, p. 2.

[13] ‘European Semester 2020: Overview of Investment Guidance on the Just Transition Fund 2021-2027 per Member State (Annex D)’, <https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/annex_d_crs_2020_en.pdf >, p. 38 (Netherlands) 

[14] Ibid.