At the end of 2023, Bulgaria received vital financial support from the EU Just Transition Fund, JTF for the national twin transition and sustainability development. Two projects signify country’s successful efforts in sustainable development covering three Bulgarian regions.
European JTF for Bulgaria
Bulgaria will receive €1.2 billion from the EU Just Transition Fund, JTF following the adoption of Bulgaria’s Territorial Just Transition Plans (TJTPs); JTF will help deliver new jobs and economic activities for a just transition in three Bulgarian regions that face the biggest socio-economic challenges in phasing out coal and reducing CO2 emissions.
It will also support Bulgaria to reach the EU 2030 climate and energy targets, and a climate-neutral economy by 2050. Adoption of the TJTPs completes the approval of a total €11 billion Cohesion Policy investments (2021-2027) supporting a more competitive, cohesive and greener Bulgaria, leaving no one behind.
The national TJTPs identify the challenges and development needs in each of the designated three territories and the objectives to be met by 2030; they also identify the planned actions with specific governance mechanisms.
The JTF, together with the European Social Fund Plus, will develop the mapping of the skills of the employees in power plants and coal mines as well as of the persons indirectly affected, such as family members. This crucial information will feed into the JTF employment measures aimed to reskill and upskill, career counsel and develop entrepreneurial skills in Bulgaria.
The JTFund will also be channeled to states’ degraded sites in line with the ‘polluter pays’ principle to prepare them for alternative economic activities and a shift to green energy, such as those related to photovoltaic parks, pilot projects for virtual power plants, industrial parks for clean technologies, and hydrogen-based value chains.
Finally, the fund will support the diversification of the local economy by investing in small and medium-sized enterprises, SMEs and in research and development, R&D related to the circular and climate-neutral economy.
In the Kyustendil region, where coal phasing-out started two decades ago, the JTF will also support the re-skilling and up-skilling of workers and offer assistance to job-seekers. The measures will particularly benefit disadvantaged groups and young people.
SMEs will be supported to put up renewable energy installations and focus will be put on the decarbonisation of the energy sector. The creation of industrial parks with clean technology solutions will provide a suitable environment for investors.
In addition, the funding will help Kyustendil extend the use of its significant geothermal energy resources.
Just transition: example
Bulgaria received €1.2 billion from the Just Transition Fund, JTF following the adoption of Bulgaria’s Territorial Just Transition Plans (TJTPs) by the European Commission at the end of 2023. The JTF will help deliver new jobs and economic activities for a just transition in three Bulgarian regions of Stara Zagora, Kyustendil and Pernik that face the biggest socio-economic challenges in phasing out coal and reducing CO2 emissions.
It will also support Bulgaria to reach the EU 2030 climate and energy targets, and a climate-neutral economy by 2050.
The JTF will help the transition from coal-based energy production and support re-skilling and up-skilling and the creation of new employment opportunities for over 15,000 workers in the three regions. Moreover, 2,190 hectares of land surface area will be rehabilitated to develop industrial areas and construct renewable energy source capacities.
Energy efficiency measures in residential buildings focused on energy-poor households and vulnerable consumers will help tackle energy poverty. In addition, the JTF will support prosumers and help establish renewable energy communities, which will reduce energy consumption, lower electricity bills for households and cut greenhouse gas emissions, on top of improving peoples’ living conditions.
To ensure that the JTF responds to local needs, local sub-committees are set up with JTF support in each of the three Bulgarian regions, directly involving a wide range of stakeholders for local representation and participation in the governance of the JTF.
Generally, the EU-wide JTM is a key tool to ensure that the transition towards a climate-neutral economy happens in a fair way, leaving no one behind. It provides targeted support to help mobilise around €55 billion EU-wide over the period 2021-27 in the most affected regions, to alleviate the socio-economic impact of the twin transition.
More on JTF in: https://commission.europa.eu/strategy-and-policy/priorities-2019-2024/european-green-deal/finance-and-green-deal/just-transition-mechanism_en
Totally, 96 regions from all EU member states receive support from the Just Transition Fund with a total €11 billion Cohesion Policy investment (2021-2027) through 70 plans. With the adoption of the Bulgarian Territorial Just Transition Plans, the EU programming for the country has been completed, and efforts now focus on implementation.
Reference to: https://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/whats-new/newsroom/21-12-2023-eu-supports-just-climate-transition-in-bulgaria-with-a-budget-of-eur1-2-billion_en
“Clean circular economy” – example
In December 2023, Bulgaria created Clean and Circle Centre of Competence in Sofia, which will serve as a milestone in environmental sustainability and functioning under the national programme “Science and Education for Smart Growth” co-financed with € 10.3 million by the EU through the European Regional Development Fund, i.e. two-third of the total. The center which is governed by Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski” will assist the state in sustainable transformation to clean technologies and circular economy practices.
Clean&Circle project (the official title: “Clean technologies for sustainable environment: waters, waste and energy for circular economy”) has been in progress since March 2018, and was scheduled for completion by the end of 2023. For example, it assists in establishing “robust infrastructure and research capabilities” dedicated to fostering innovations in the circular economy, with a specific focus on water, energy and waste management.
The project is structured around three vertical modules: water, solid waste and transfer, each addressing critical aspects of nation-wide circular economy.
As the project’s website notes, it “aims to contribute to sustainable development, signaling a future where innovation and environmental consciousness go hand in hand, shaping a cleaner and more sustainable world”.
Citation and more in: https://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/whats-new/newsroom/21-12-2023-clean-circle-inaugurating-a-hub-for-sustainable-innovation_en