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(DF) Sofia Hosts Green Transition: Solutions and Challenges for Bulgaria Forum

October 15 (BTA) – The first real step on the way to the Green Transition is the preparation of the Recovery and Resilience Plan. This lays the foundations for a green and digital transformation of the economy in the context of the Green Deal’s ambitious goals, caretaker Prime Minister Stefan Yanev said Friday, opening the Green Transition: Solutions and Challenges for Bulgaria forum. On Friday, the Recovery and Resilience Plan will be submitted formally for consideration by the European Commission. It is aligned to the EU vision and priorities, and steps on an entirely new philosophy of development of the economy, the Prime Minister said. The principal changes prioritize decarbonization of the economy, enhanced support for business at the introduction of financial instruments and partial replacement of the earlier compensatory financial support, investment focus on the social sphere of education, health care and social support, which will also enhance the potential of the economy through investments and human capital. The scope of the Plan totals some 13 billion leva, 59 investment projects and 46 reforms. The Recovery and Resilience Plan will give the economy, industry and business the impetus they need for development, Yanev said. EC Vice President Frans Timmermans, who is attending the forum, said the transition in the coal-producing regions would be achieved in a fair manner and promised that no one would be abandoned or forgotten. Timmermans is in charge of the Green Deal. The only question here is how to create a better future for Europe’s coal regions, the EC Vice President pointed out, noting that there are 30 of them to date and that they already know that their long-term future cannot be associated with coal mining. What is needed in those regions are better jobs, social and economic development, according to Timmermans. What is needed is infrastructure that would have a key role in the future mobility and connectivity. Those employed in coal mining should be trained, their skills should be changed and they should be reskilled, Timmermans noted. He further said that Bulgaria has a huge brain potential, that a great opportunity can be seen in electromobility and, considering the beauty of this country, enormous opportunities lie in the tourism and service industries. In the next few months, Bulgaria’s Recovery and Resilience Plan will be analysed very carefully, Timmermans said, adding that the EC would take into consideration that Bulgaria faces serious challenges in its energy sector and that it should be guaranteed that these challenges become successful measures. The green transition in itself could be a source of new jobs, British Ambassador Rob Dixon said. In the last decade Britain has succeeded in opening over 400,000 new green jobs which support new industries and technologies that will replace fossil fuels, he added. EU Commissioner for Innovation Mariya Gabriel underscored the key role of science and innovation to turn the challenges related to the green transition into opportunities. She said the main problem is how the challenges related to the green transition could become a strategy of growth, a strategy for jobs, clearly perceived in every single region in Europe as a fair process benefiting people. Deputy Prime Minister Atanas Pekanov said climate change is a typical example of a market failure the right solution to which will not be found without serious intervention. Difficult issues have been avoided for far too long in Bulgaria, and climate change is a topic this country has shied away from for a long time. The concerns of people in the coal-mining regions about their livelihood and future should be understood. Compensation mechanisms and instruments are needed to help support people, he pointed out. New industries and new, sustainable jobs and incomes could be created through the Recovery and Resilience Plan, Pekanov said. The Plan’s mechanisms also helped increase the funds for developing renewable energy sources, he added. Consensus with the people concerned with their future was achieved. The 2.4 billion leva available from the Just Transition Fund will help people in the coal-mining regions and they will have a better and greener future, Pekanov said. The reforms envisaging new RES capacity and energy consumption are also important, Pekanov said. Funds set aside in the Plan for economic transformation for RES meeting businesses’ own needs were increased 11-fold from 20 to 220 million leva. Funds for instalment of rooftop solar panels were increased sevenfold. The Plan will promote electromobility and the instalment of charging stations, the Deputy PM added. European Investment Bank Vice-President Lilyana Pavlova said: “We would like to turn the EIB into a Climate Bank of the EU and Europe.” EIB has a Climate Roadmap with a clear goal of decarbonization of the economy. Fifty per cent of EIB investments are focused on climate sustainable projects. The bank is phasing out the funding of fossil fuel related projects and encourages investments in RES, building rehabilitation and transport modernization, Pavlova pointed out. Sofia Mayor Yordanka Fandakova remarked that the present situation, with the surge in the prices of natural gas, electricity and other resources, is making life very costly and is generating enormous scepticism. That scepticism can be curbed only by an adequate reaction by both the EC and the national governments. *** In a separate development, protesting representatives of the Podkrepa Confederation of Labour met with EC Vice President Frans Timmermans, the trade union said. Timmermans talked to the trade union representatives who were carrying candles as a symbol of the future facing Bulgaria if it closes down its coal-fired power plants without any fair transition strategies or prospects for the sector’s workforce. On October 13, the influential Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria and Podkrepa held a rally in central Sofia to protest at the planned closure of coal-fired power plants in the Maritsa basin as required by the EU in keeping with its plans for decarbonization of the economy. Union leaders met with Prime Minister Stefan Yanev and ministers. Workers protested in defence of the coal-fired power plants and submitted a collection of 110,000 signatures in favour of this. /RY/BR/DD //