Just Transition Research Group has been established on the initiative of scientists from the University of Silesia in Katowice. Its purpose will be to undertake research and educational activities supporting the development and implementation of the just transformation concept. The related changes will affect not only the Upper Silesia, but also other European regions, which have faced the necessity to transform the lifestyle, culture and social values in response to the challenge of building the so-called green and ecologically sustainable economy.
The European Green Deal program opens many opportunities for scientists. The EU member states have taken up the challenge to achieve climate neutrality by year 2050. By joining these activities, scientists in the newly established group are planning not only to conduct research on the problems of just transformation, but also to establish cooperation with domestic and foreign research centres, as well as social partners.
Vice-Rector for Domestic and International Cooperation, Prof. Tomasz Pietrzykowski, head of the newly established group, tells us about the idea behind setting up the Team and how the University of Silesia has joined the implementation of the European Green Deal.
Upper Silesia is an interesting area. It is still associated with the mining industry, and fossil fuels are an inherent tradition of the region. However, it has been said for many years that we gradually need to build here the so-called “green economy”. Certain activities in this respect have already been undertaken. Let us also remind that in 2014 we co-organised COP24 climate summit in Katowice, during which “Katowice Climate Package”, a set of principles governing the efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change, was adopted.
A lot has already changed, but we still have many challenges…
Upper Silesia is one of the few most important regions in Europe in terms of the current climate policy challenges. It has a very ambitious goal – the so-called “European Green Deal”, which assumes that EU states will achieve climate neutrality in 30 years’ time.
The first climate-neutral continent… What does this expression actually mean? We find out from the materials of the European Commission that “green deal” is to be implemented through funding activities in each economy sector, including: reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, renovation of buildings, support for industry in building green economy and support for scientific research that provides knowledge in this respect.
It is a very difficult project. In order to enable a fundamental change across the whole Europe, we must take into account the extent of transitions that will affect the industry, transport and management of waste (especially plastics) in the upcoming years. For Silesia, as a region that is so deeply entangled in the existing model of economy and living, it will be particularly difficult. At the same time, it is a huge opportunity for our region to redefine itself, the biggest one in the last several hundred years. We have to get involved in facing this challenge, or otherwise we will go down in the history along with the industrial age which made Silesia what it is right now.
We will not escape from the word transformation. My impression is that it has been associated with our region for several decades. In the case of Silesia, it has a broad meaning, concerning not only the industry, but also the lifestyle and adopted social values. The proposed changes should have a solid scientific background. Such activities will be undertaken by the currently emerging team of researchers– Just Transition Research Group [Prof. Pietrzykowski is the Leader of the Group].
Just transformation is becoming one of the most important, and yet one of the least understood notions in the contemporary policy of EU and its Member States. Silesia is probably the most important region to be covered by this policy. The term has also become one of the pillars of the European Green Deal policy. Its idea is to develop support tools for the regions in which adjustment to the new type of approach to climate and environmental protection is particularly difficult and risky. The European Union is ready to allocate additional huge funds to aim at achieving climate neutrality under conditions of equal opportunities.
What does it mean for our region?
The funds allocated for this purpose should be well-thought, properly developed and used, so that the regions such as ours could find their place in the reality of the European Green Deal and were not “left to themselves” in light of the upcoming changes. This is precisely what we want to focus on – in fact, not only with reference to Silesia, but also to the climate-neutral model of living in general. These problems are universal, although there are several regions in Europe, including ours, which are, in a way, their natural “capitals”.
The “natural capital” of climate-neutral challenge is also the place where University of Silesia is based, together with its entire research potential. Our scientists often emphasize that the region inspires them to take up interesting research subjects. This is the opinion shared by geologists, biologists, sociologists, linguists, historians…
The University of Silesia is the most important university in our region, capable of taking up subjects that we are talking about. They are mainly related to public policy tools, their perception and resulting changes, which are significant for the quality of life of the region’s inhabitants. It is also important to monitor the effects of the undertaken activities in the public awareness.
Our ambition is not only to join this research, but also to become one of its leaders, at least on the European scale.
To achieve this goal, we must try to combine the forces of outstanding researchers representing various fields of science at our university. We are particularly interested in connecting the knowledge and experience of representatives of social sciences with specialists in natural sciences, exact sciences and technology. We will also invite the interested scientists from other Silesian universities and foreign partners to take part in our research. This is not the right time for scientific isolation. We want to be as open as possible, because the challenge that we are facing is enormous.
Thank you very much for the interview.
- Declaration of Just Transition Research Group (pdf, 576 kB).