Conference “Dialogue for Just Transition in Montenegro”
Just Transition Leading to a More Prosperous Society
February 28, 2023
Podgorica, February 28, 2023 - Montenegro has a great potential and an opportunity to embark on the path of green transition and decarbonization, i.e. the gradual phase-out of coal as a source for electricity and heat generation. Investments and mobilization of public and private capital are crucial for successful transition to provide infrastructure support for further social and economic development. Support programmes for just transition should be inclusive and based on open social dialogue, and focus primarily on supporting households and communities that are most dependent on coal-based industry. Montenegro can ensure truly sustainable development that places people in the centre of this transformation as winners, and not victims, only if the above is achieved.
This is the conclusion of the first day of the conference dedicated to just transition and inclusive, low-carbon development of the Montenegrin society, which is taking place in Podgorica.
The biggest comparative advantage of Montenegro is the concept of ecological state supported by its Constitution, and Montenegro must finally get out of its transition, the Dritan Abazović, Prime Minister of Montenegro, has said.
Just transition implies the process of energy sector reform in Montenegro, and especially reform of those sectors that are the biggest contributors to environmental pollution. In order to be just, the transition should provide an economic alternative to the communities that will be affected the most by this process, by creating opportunities for decent work and development," he has said. The Prime Minister also referred to the ecological situation in Pljevlja. "With ecological component in mind - the transition must take place, and the Thermal Power Plant Pljevlja must select the best model of reconstruction and modernization. Pljevlja must get alternative sources of energy. As a country, we must proceed carefully with this transformation, because Pljevlja has experienced the greatest injustice in the last 30 years. Pljevlja has given a lot to entire Montenegro, and got little or nothing back. Today, Pljevlja is an example of a negative transition, but I firmly believe that it will soon be a synonym for something else: that proper solutions for environmental and social problems will be found, so that citizens have a reason to stay and contribute to their city's development”, he has said.
The Prime Minister has pointed out that Montenegro as a country with more than 240 sunny days a year must start to use its potentials in a right way. “The gap between north and south must finally be properly balanced. Significant share of funds from the Capital Budget must be invested to develop the north of the country, and people must get a new opportunity for development".
The Prime Minister has pointed out that the Government of Montenegro is a reliable partner to UNDP, and that they will work together to correct unjust transitions so that Montenegro can become one of the developed European countries.
Though they may be uncomfortable, major changes offer many opportunities, Daniela Gašparikova, UNDP Resident Representative has pointed out. Just transition, she added, aims for gradual phase-out of coal and gives hope that the society will become fairer, healthier, greener and more prosperous.
“For the transition to bring about better outcomes for all, it’s critical that it’s managed, rather than happing accidentally or uncontrolled. To this end, I very much welcome establishing of the National Council for Sustainable Development and its Working Group on Just Transition which aims to do just that – bringing all relevant partners together under one governance mechanism to ensure that this transition is managed and paced adequately, leaving no-one behind. This process will take time and is not going to happen overnight, in 1 year and most likely not even in 5 years. Yet, if we start today we will have time to work our way through systematic planning, organizing and implementation of change. UNDP will remain a committed partner to helping Montenegro on this pathway, focusing on what matters the most – the people - not only on their income, but also on their health and healthy environment which is needed for good quality of life”, Gašparikova has said.
Just transition in Montenegro is a necessary step to ensure health and economic prosperity for the future generations - especially in Pljevlja region, Yngve Engstroem, Head of the Cooperation Sector at the Delegation of the European Union to Montenegro, has said.
“The EU's Green Deal is a growth strategy and Montenegro should make sure it benefits from it. With its policies and instruments, the EU can support this growth for the benefit of the citizens of Montenegro. We need to act now because the price of today’s investments is far higher than the price our young generations could pay in the future”, Engstrom has said.
Rajko Kovačević, Mayor of Pljevlja, highlighted the importance of supporting just transition in Pljevlja and the complexity of this process from the aspect of its general acceptance, due to fears and misunderstandings that it could result in the loss of jobs and hinder development that the local community has relied on for decades.
“It is, therefore, important to open this topic for dialogue, provide all necessary information to employees, businesses, trade unions, citizens. The basic need of the municipality of Pljevlja, which is already burdened with economic, social and environmental problems, is a green energy transition that is implemented in a fair manner and that represents a new strategy for the development of the municipality, Kovačević has said and reminded participants that the municipality of Pljevlja has initiated preparations with UNDP's support, by establishing the local just transition platform managed by the Creative Hub.
Improved sustainable management of resources, enhanced energy efficiency, strengthened social justice and contribution to solving the problems of poverty, inequality and gender differences are the way to accomplish the vision of a just ecological state in practice.
The two-day conference is organized as part of the “Roadmap for Just Transition in Montenegro” project, which is implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Montenegro, under the auspices of the Slovak Republic Ministry of Finance, within the framework of the “Dialogue for Development” platform of the National Council for Sustainable Development.