Stara Zagora Hosted Fourth Forum of Mayors Engaged in Just Energy Transition

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Dozens of city leaders discussed in Stara Zagora the need for a just energy transition

Mayors from 5 Central and Eastern European countries took part in the 4th Forum of Mayors on a Just Energy Transition. The conference, entitled "New energy mix: social policy dialogue", was held in a hybrid format, in line with all the counter-emergency measures in place. The official host of the meeting was the city of Stara Zagora, but due to the restrictions imposed, many of the guests participated virtually. On the Bulgarian side this year, mayors and experts from the five coal municipalities in the country participated. 

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The forum is a result of the joint work between the Stara Zagora Regional Economic Development Agency, WWF Bulgaria and the Black Sea Energy Research Centre. The three ongoing DeCarb, EUKI and TRACER projects share a common goal of a shared vision for the EU's coal regions in transition for their further sustainable development based on clean technologies and industries.

On the first day of the event, the leadership of the Forum of Mayors was symbolically handed over by Mariusz Volosz - Mayor of Bytom, Poland to Yordan Nikolov - Deputy Mayor of Stara Zagora.

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The thematic panel on Territorial Plans for a Just Transition discussed the plans of the Bulgarian coal mining regions: Stara Zagora, Pernik and Kyustendil, as well as the tool for assessing their potential impact with the participation of representatives from Price-WaterhouseCoopers and representatives of WWF Bulgaria.

The panel, dedicated to the social aspect of just transition, presented the views of Iliana Tsanova, Deputy Director General, Directorate General Budget, European Commission, Atanaska Nikolova, Economic and Social Council of the Republic of Bulgaria, as well as representatives of local and national youth organizations.

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The session Research and Innovation was led by representatives of academia and business in the person of prof. Daria Vladikova, Bulgarian Association for Hydrogen Storage, Fuel Cells and Energy; Institute for Sustainable Transition and Development/Traki University, Dr. Rumyana Grozeva, Executive Director - SZ REDA, as Managing Coordinator of the European Digital Information Hub Zagore, prof. Zhivka Ovcharova, Research Institute of Informatics in Karlsruhe and Assoc. Evgeni Evgeniev, First Secretary, Science Sector, Permanent Representation of Bulgaria to the EU. The aim of this panel was to discuss different perspectives on how research and innovation policies/projects can support the regional economy in the coming years of implementing a fair energy transition and the period beyond.

The final panel for the first day of the Forum, The New Energy Mix, presented the vision of Yuliyan Popov, Policy Advisor, European Climate Foundation, Kostadin Sirlestov, Managing Partner CMS Sofia and Head of EPC in CEE at CMS, Bulgaria and Chairman of the Association for Production, Storage and Trade of Electricity, Nikola Gazdov, Chairman of the Association for Production, Storage and Trade of Electricity and Ivelin Panchov, Member of the European Digital Information Hub Zagore.

The main conclusion that was drawn after the event was that the need for an indicative date and plan for the transformation of coal-fired capacities is increasingly evident at local, regional and national level. The forum emerged as an important development opportunity for communities traditionally reliant on fossil fuels, as well as for anyone concerned with just transition.

The Forum concluded with a site visit by participants to the Maritsa East Mine and Maritsa East 2 Thermal Power Plant. 

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More about the speakers, programme and sessions can be found here