Spain’s new government and its unions have agreed on a transition plan to shut down most of the country’s coal mines by the end of this year and invest €250 million in mining regions over the next decade.
“With this agreement, we have solved the first urgent task we had on the table when we came to government,” said Ecological Transition Minister Teresa Ribera. “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.”
The initiative “mixes early retirement schemes for miners over 48, with environmental restoration work in pit communities and reskilling schemes for cutting-edge green industries,” The Guardian reports. Unions are calling the plan, which covers the country’s privately-owned mines, a model agreement.
“Spain can export this deal as an example of good practice,” said Montserrat Mir, Spanish confederal secretary for the European Trades Union Congress. “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.”
The Guardian says about 1,000 miners and contractors at 10 pits, almost all of which had been deemed uneconomic, will lose their jobs at the end of the year. “About 600 workers in Spain’s northern mining regions—Asturias, Aragón, and Castilla y León—are set to benefit from social aid under the scheme, while about 60% of the miners will be able to opt for early retirement.”
Spain’s new left-leaning government has also abolished a controversial “sunshine tax” that had been an impediment to the domestic solar industry, and plans to launch a national climate plan next month. While coal delivered more than 100,000 mining jobs in the 1960s, the industry now only supplies 2.3% of Spain’s electricity.