The Spanish government is ready to close most of the coal mines in the country by the end of 2018 with a €250m transition deal agreement with unions, which will include early retirement for miners, re-skilling and environmental restoration.
After agreeing on a deal worth €250m (£221m) with the unions, Spain is ready to shut down most of its coal mines by the end of the year. A deal that will look to phase out coal mines while taking care of its miners, with planned investments over the next decade.
Newly appointed Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has moved quickly on environmental policy, after abolishing the hugely contested “sunshine tax” on the solar industry and announcing the launch of Spain’s long-delayed national climate plan next month. Teresa Ribera, the minister for ecological transition, said: “With this agreement, we have solved the first urgent task we had on the table when we came to government. Our aim has been to leave no one behind. We also want to go further, we want to innovate. That is why we offer the drawing up of ‘Just Transition’ contracts, with the aim of helping the regions to consolidate the employment of the future.”
Unions came forward in support of the new mining deal which will cover Spain’s privately owned pits as a model agreement. The investment will be effectively used in funding early retirement schemes for miners over 48, with environmental restoration work in pit communities and re-skilling of young miners to help them transition to newer cutting-edge green industry jobs. More than a thousand miners and subcontractors will lose their jobs when 10 pits close by the end of the year, 60 percent of whom will have the option of choosing the early retirement package.
Montserrat Mir, the Spanish confederal secretary for the European Trades Union Congress, said the “just transition” model could be applied elsewhere. “Spain can export this deal as an example of good practice,” she said. “We have shown that it’s possible to follow the Paris agreement without damage [to people’s livelihoods]. We don’t need to choose between a job and protecting the environment. It is possible to have both.”
What Spain is looking to accomplish is that, if done thoughtfully, the transition from coal to greener sources of energy along with resettling its workers can present an opportunity for new economic growth and environmental renewal.
Last week, we reported that the Northern Indiana Public Service Co. (NIPSCO) will be closing most of its coal plants by 2023 and all of them by 2028. The utility firm found that it can save customers in Indiana, US more than $4 billion over 30 years by moving from 65% coal today to 15% coal in 5 years and completely phased out over the next ten years.