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Spain bids farewell to coal

Date: 12-Dec-18
Author: Liam Taylor

Spain is showing that protecting the environment and protecting employment are not mutually exclusive. Image: Dominik Vanyi © Dominik Vanyi

Spain is showing that protecting the environment and protecting employment are not mutually exclusive. Image: Dominik Vanyi

The nation’s last 10 privately owned coal pits will be closed later this month in a move many hope will bring a cleaner, greener future.

During the 1960s Spain’s coal industry employed over 100,000 miners with mining culture taking root in communities across the country. The once thriving industry has been brought to its knees by a combination of economic realities: cheaper imports from developing countries, falling renewable energy prices and binding E.U. targets to reduce emissions. These economic influences, along with growing awareness of the environmental costs of burning coal, have made mining coal in Spain untenable.

There are justified concerns that closing the industry risks increased unemployment and social dislocation, particularly in regions in the country’s north where about 1,000 people still work the mines. However, it is hoped a ‘just transition’ deal brokered by unions and the nation’s newly instated government will ease the move away from coal.

Over €250 million (almost 400 million AUD) has been assigned to supporting laid-off miners and mining communities through a combination of compensation payouts, environmental restoration work in pit communities and reskilling to allow for employment in low-carbon jobs and green industries. Many believe that with the political will to do so, this ‘just transition’ model could be effectively exported and applied elsewhere to hasten the transition away from fossil fuels and towards renewables.

“We have shown that it’s possible to follow the Paris agreement without damage to people’s livelihoods," said Montserrat Mir, the Spanish confederal secretary for the European Trades Union Congress.

“We don’t need to choose between a job and protecting the environment. It is possible to have both.”

Over the past 24 months there has been a dramatic decrease in the demand for coal globally, and economists expect the trend to continue as previously coal dependent nations such as China, India, Japan and South Korea transition towards renewable energy.


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Liam                                              Taylor
Author: Liam Taylor

Prior to joining Planet Ark Liam spent his time studying global environmental issues, travelling Southeast Asia on the cheap and working for a sustainable property management company in Bali, Indonesia. Joining the communications team at Planet Ark, he hopes to inspire positive environmental behaviour through effective and positive messaging.

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