In line with the objective of achieving EU climate neutrality by 2050 in an effective and fair manner, the Just Transition Fund should aim at alleviating the economic, environmental and social cost of the transition towards climate neutrality, for the benefit of the territories that are most negatively affected by the transition.
the present opinion aims to influence the ongoing legislative negotiations by putting forward key recommendations and suggestions for improvement of the legislative proposal
The European Parliament's REGI committee adopted its legislative report on 6 July and the following elements from the CoR's opinion were taken on board by REGI:
• climate-neutral economy by 2050 and intermediate goals for 2030, in line with the Paris agreement
• amounts are expressed in 2018 prices
• principle of no cuts to Cohesion policy
• the CoR's concern that money available will need to be spent in the first years has been addressed by making them available also in 2025-2027
• outermost and insular regions are addressed
• regeneration and decontamination of sites in line with the "polluter pays" principle
• ban of support in regions where new/old mines are open/reopen (at NUTS 2 level) - almost the exact CoR text has been adopted!
• transfer from ERDF and ESF Plus of up to 1,5 times the original JTF allocation on a voluntary basis
On 3 November, the European Parliament entered into the interinstitutional negotiations with the Council with the end of negotiations expected mid-December 2020.
The European Parliament and the Council have already concluded their interinstitutional negotiations on the main text of the legislative proposal and the European Parliament is awaiting its 1st reading on the matter. The following positive elements have been identified in the provisional agreement:
The final regulation will contain clear commitments to the Union’s 2030 target for energy and climate and a climate-neutral economy of the Union by 2050, which were clearly reqested by the CoR opinion. It will also contain practical arrangements on how these commitments will be enforced;
When preparing Just Transition Plans, Member States shall take particular account of the situation of islands and outermost regions;
The negotiators have included new types of eligible investments: investments in renewable energy in accordance with the Renewable Energy Directive (EU) 2018/2001 will be eligible for support;
the JTF will also support investments in smart and sustainable local mobility, including the decarbonisation of the local transport sector and its infrastructure;
The polluter pays principle, one of the core principles of state aid for environmental protection, will be duly taken into account when supporting investments in regeneration and decontamination of brownfield sites, land restoration and including, where necessary, green infrastructure and repurposing projects;
LRAs should be fully involved in the preparation of territorial just transition plans covering one or more affected territories. In addition, "Member States should ensure that municipalities and cities are involved in the implementation of the JTF resources and that their needs in that context are taken into account". The partnership principle, in accordance with Article 6 of the new CPR, has to be respected when preparing territorial just transition plans consistently with Member States' National Energy and Climate Plans.
In addition, the Commission (DG REGIO) has agreed to closely cooperate with the CoR in organising a Multi-level dialogue on Just Transition, as a separate session of the upcoming (spring) Just Transition Platform meeting. This is in line with the CoR's call for setting up an Annual Forum of Just Transition Regions, enabling the regions to exchange views on the just transition.
The European Committee of the Regions:
• welcomes the Just Transition Fund as a key tool in supporting the regions most affected by the transition towards climate neutrality and the fact that the proposal for the Just Transition Fund has taken on board key CoR recommendations set out in its opinion on socioeconomic structural change in Europe's coal regions;
• asks the European Commission to place the new Just Transition Fund under Heading 2 (Cohesion and Values) of the MFF 2021-2027 instead of Heading 3 (Natural Resources and Environment);
• is concerned about the delay the JTF may cause to the implementation of the main programmes of cohesion policy; is also concerned about the complexity and red tape that management of this new fund could create for the management of the main programmes of cohesion policy;
• calls for the scope of support of the Just Transition Fund to be expanded so that, in agreement with the European Commission and the Member States, local and regional authorities can include additional eligible projects in their territorial just transition plans;
• suggests giving managing authorities more flexibility by making transfers on a voluntary basis with a maximum amount of up to 1.5 times the amount of support from the JTF and only with the consent of the local and regional authorities involved;
• welcomes in this respect the creation of the Just Transition Platform, which should be built on the positive experiences with the carbon-intensive regions and other regions that have successfully managed to move from fossil fuels to clean energy sources. The CoR underlines that this platform should make sure that all relevant Commission services and the EIB work closely together to address structural change in the affected regions. The CoR undertakes to engage closely in the operation of the Just Transition Platform, in particular by co-organising an Annual Forum of Just Transition Regions with the European Commission;
• stresses that EU provisions on state aid need to allow for flexibility when eligible regions in transition want to attract private investment;