With the ongoing climate change crisis , the European Union is recognized as a global leader of climate change mitigation and adaptation, recently adopting the European Green Deal – a set of strategies and instruments supporting a just transition to a decarbonized European society. Yet, the new European strategies and financial instruments also put forward the essential question of how to achieve carbon-neutral economies without unequal impact on the communities that have been living and working for generations in coal-dependent regions. This poses major research and educational challenges for universities located in old coal-mining regions. UJEP is the only university located in northwest Czechia, one of the most extreme examples of a European region affected by the mining industry and all of its social, economic and environmental impacts.
“While transition studies with a strong link to social inclusiveness has been the focused on for a long time at our university, the latest impetus for our research and educational effort was recently provided by the Just Transition Fund within the European Green Deal”, says Jaroslav Koutský, the rector of the university. Since 2021, the university has been putting together two strategic projects, and has been participating in two more projects that will bring together our experience and knowledge across these research areas. “Our goal with these projects is to develop and validate new mechanisms that support synergies across university centres of excellence and regional actors in order to ensure there is real-life impact of our research”, continues Koutský.
The first strategic project is abbreviated as RUR, denoting multiple feedback between the Region and the University. The project embraces four areas of activity on the theme of creativity. These areas include creative people (focusing on inclusive and education), a creative community (aiming at innovations in regional decision-making), a creative environment (developing new approaches to participatory environmental planning), and creative campus (integrating everything above in at the university campus in Ústí nad Labem).
The next project GET, standing for Green Energy Technologies, and wants to establish a new hydrogen energy infrastructure at the university. “This perfectly follows European strategies, which list our region among the European Hydrogen Valleys”, explains Martin Balej, who is responsible for European Funds at the university.
Depending on the details of our funding, we expect both projects will be launched in late 2023 or early 2024. This will help to further establish UJEP as a leader in transition studies internationally and presents the Ústí nad Labem region as an example of how a just transition can be approached and achieved.