A Polish thinktank has highlighted the risks to social mobility of the EU’s transition to primary reliance on clean energy sources.
Piotr Arak, director of the Polish Economic Institute, told delegates at Euractiv’s Transforming the Global Energy System event last week that Poland, which is still heavily reliant on energy derived from coal, would have to spend up to €60 billion to bring its energy sector in line with EU targets by 2030. With the associated costs likely to be passed down to Polish consumers, Arak warned attendees that the transition posed “a huge challenge which is connected to energy poverty”, adding: “It’s also a social policy issue.”
Around 44 per cent of Polish residents currently spend more than 10 per cent of their annual income on energy bills; while the country’s thriving coal industry employs more than 100,000 Poles. Arak noted that some Poles would be financially ill-equipped to implement recommended clean energy transition measures, such as replacing fossil fuel boilers or emission-heavy cars, into their households; and advocated the establishment of an EU-wide “just transition fund” to help residents of Member States smooth the transition.
Marion Labatut, policy director at energy industry body Eurelectric, said: “Look at the ‘Gilets Jaunes’ in France – it came from the idea of introducing a tax on fuels with a view to delivering on climate change targets. I think there is a key need in the next five years to look at distributional effects of energy policies [to fully implement the clean energy transition] without leaving anyone behind…challenges [posed by the shift to clean energy] are not just economical, they are also about the people who work in this industry and need to be retrained to find other jobs.”
Nathalie Loiseau, the French former minister for Europe who is standing as an MEP in the upcoming European elections, has also called for the establishment of a “climate bank” to offset the financial outlay caused to citizens by the widespread shift to renewable energy sources.