On February 6 and 7, dialogues were held in Obrenovac and Boljevac on how to devise and implement as just as possible solutions for the challenges of energy transition and energy poverty in these locations. The dialogues were organized by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), with the support of the Government of Japan, in partnership with the Ministry of Mining and Energy and the Ministry of Environmental Protection. These events are part of the consultative process with local communities in Serbia, commenced last year.
The goal of the dialogues in Obrenovac and Boljevac was to raise awareness of the energy transition in these two local communities, which are largely dependent on mining and industry that relies on fossil fuels. Furthermore, they aimed at devising adequate support, primarily in terms of creating employment opportunities within new economic activities, in order to avoid the negative consequences that abandoning the use of fossul fuels might have on the local population.
Attendees of the events were more than 60 representatives of stakeholders relevant to the process: the Ministry of Mining and Energy, the Ministry of Environmental Protection, local governments, PC Elektroprivreda Srbije, TPP Nikola Tesla, Kostolac and Kolubara, mine Bogovina, PC Resavica, private companies from Obrenovac and Boljevac, the Chamber of Commerce of Serbia, the Secretariat for Energy of the City of Belgrade, the National Employment Service, the Center for Social Work, as well as local experts dealing with environmental and social protection.
The participants agreed that a just green transition requires provision of the employment opportunities for vulnerable categories of population in industries such as textile and chemical, along other economic sectors, in new "green" jobs such as solar panel operators, jobs related to waste management and similar, as well as provision of the retraining for acquiring skills that will make them employable in these jobs, followed by the adequate social protection. In addition, the necessity of close cooperation between the economy - which will offer new, green jobs and the educational system - which prepares workforce for those jobs, was underlined.
Several examples of a successful just green transition, such as the one in Great Britain, Chile and the USA, as well as in our country, were also pointed out. One of them is the example of the PC Resavica, which opened an Eco-Museum on the site of the Senjski mine, the oldest active brown coal mine in Serbia. Thanks to the support of the Government of Japan, this museum was additionally decorated, which increased the number of green employment opportunities in this area. Another example was given by representatives of the Bogovina mine, who recognized the possibility of shifting from coal to mining clay from the pits of this mine, which could be used in cosmetic industry and production of ceramic pottery.
The conclusions from the local dialogues will serve as inputs for recommendations for the preparation of the legislative framework for the just green transition process in Serbia, with a focus on the social dimension. The concept of a just transition recognizes the risk of deepening economic and social inequalities that abandonment of fossil fuels might cause and foresees that the green transition is conducted in an inclusive manner, considering the needs of all social groups and leaving no one behind.
The dialogues in Obrenovac and Boljevac are a part of the consultative process on just green transition commenced in October 2022, within the project "Just Green Transition and Decarbonization in Serbia" and continued during 2023 and 2024 within the project "Innovative and Just Green Transition as a Tool for Securing Systemic Energy Security and Reducing Energy Poverty“, implemented by UNDP in partnership with the Ministry of Environmental Protection and the Ministry of Mining and Energy, with the support of the Government of Japan.