Carbon Intensive Regions in Transition – Unravelling the Challenges of Structural Change
In order to meet the climate change mitigation objectives of the European Union as well as the objectives of the Paris Agreement, it is inevitable that the European Union phases out fossil fuel consumption in the power sector and decarbonizes fossil-fuel dependent industries. These industries are not spread evenly across the EU but concentrated in a number of carbon-intensive regions. Decarbonization will lead to deep structural changes with implications for regional economies, labour markets, as well as for the regions’ social, political, cultural and demographic composition. If not managed well, these structural changes may cause serious economic impacts, societal upheaval, aggravated social inequalities and hardship. To minimize such consequences it is necessary to better understand the patterns and dynamics of structural change in response to decarbonization at the regional level, to understand which parameters determine the pace of transformation as well as the capacity of regional actors to adapt and pro-actively create alternative structures. This project aims to enable these activities through highly integrated, inter- and transdisciplinary research working in close collaboration with regional stakeholders. It combines quantitative model-based research with qualitative in-depth analysis. The qualitative research will focus on four highly fossil-fuel dependent regions: Western Macedonia (Greece), Silesia (Poland), Ida-Virumaa (Estonia) and the Rhenish mining area (Germany). The regions were selected to cover a diverse set of different fuels, state of economic development, diversification of the regional economy, political economy, and spatial composition. This diversity will enable the project to derive generalizable insights about the patterns and dynamics of decarbonization and the corresponding structural adjustments that hold relevance for all carbon-intensive regions in the EU and its neighbouring countries.