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EU’s Timmermans: Coal has no future but coal sector workers do

EU's Timmermans Coal no future workers

Photo: Aurore Martignoni / EC - Audiovisual Service

Published

February 25, 2021

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Published:

February 25, 2021

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European Commission Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans said the EU needs to assist governments and investors in phasing out coal, but that the same goes for the oil and petrochemicals sector. In his view, the industry’s transformation already offers opportunities with technologies such as hydrogen.

Companies are increasingly turning away from fossil fuels as the sector faces diminishing profits and “there is no more demand for coal,” according to European Commission Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans, who is responsible for the European Green Deal and climate action. In recent statements, he weighed in on the situation in Romania and Greece.

The European Union must back investments in sustainable energy, which have a strong upward trajectory throughout the globe, the top European Union official said at Ziarul Financiar’s ZF Power Summit. “The longer you wait with the transition, the more difficult and the more expensive it is going to become. So those who shift their investments early into decarbonized energy generation and sustainable energy generation will also profit more quickly,” he stated.

Rough road ahead for coal sector but also oil, petrochemicals

The EU needs to show the people in the fossil fuel industry that they have a future beyond carbon, Timmermans stressed and acknowledged there is a rough road ahead for them, including oil and petrochemicals. He pointed to the example of Germany, which decided to abandon coal by 2038, and suggested the Romanian government should involve miners’ unions and local and regional authorities together with the representatives of the industry.

Hydrogen is the energy of the future, the top EU official claims

The coal phaseout must include social relief, investments and restructuring in mining regions, the European Commission’s executive vice-president underscored. Coal miners in Lonea in Jiu valley have recently held a strike over unpaid wages. Romania can use natural gas in the transition and the infrastructure must be modified for new technologies such as hydrogen, the energy of the future, Timmermans said.

He added natural gas is a transition fuel and not a long-term solution. The billions of euros in subsidies for coal can be used for other goals, he asserted.

When coal mines close, new opportunities come

Separately, Timmermans said the transition in the coal region of Western Macedonia in Greece should be focused on retraining affected workers and the development of the green industry, particularly steel. “When coal mines close, new opportunities come… In the new economy, one issue is skills and the redefinition of skills and this is a big challenge for national governments but also for us at the European level,” he underscored.

Timmermans also highlighted the possibilities from the development of hydrogen production and infrastructure for the fuel to be used in industrial facilities. “Let us show that renewable energy is an opportunity for Greece to make the right investments, that hydrogen is an opportunity for Greece and other coal mining regions in Europe,” he said.

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