Integrated research framework: Transitions in carbon intensive regions

CINTRAN project deliverable


Decarbonisation of energy systems through the phase-out of fossil fuels is high on the political agenda, both globally and within the EU: at COP26 in 2021, many countries signed the ‘Global Coal to Clean Power Statement’ which contains a clause on coal phase-out, committing to coal phase-out for the first time, including for example Indonesia, Vietnam, and South Korea (UNFCCC, 2021a). Within the EU, many countries have already committed to coal phase-out, recent commitments including Poland and the Czech Republic (Europe Beyond Coal, 2022; Taylor, 2021). Some countries, such as Estonia, with no coal capacity, are looking to phase out other fossil fuels such as oil shale (Tammiste and Saarniit, 2021).

National phase-out of fossil fuel production and energy generation especially impacts those regions that are rich in fossil fuel assets, such as coal and oil shale mining regions, as well as locations of power plants. The CINTRAN project studies patterns and dynamics of structural change within four carbonintensive regions: Western Macedonia in Greece, Silesia in Poland, Ida-Virumaa in Estonia and the Rhenish mining area in Germany. CINTRAN research aims to understand how regional transitions evolve, regions’ capacities to adapt and resist to decline, and justice implications of such transitions.
This research can not only inform the design of effective and feasible policies to support just and inclusive transitions within the European context. It can also help generate valuable lessons from ongoing transition processes that can be transferred to emerging transitions in the global South.

But how can we assess and understand varied aspects of regional transitions within different contexts, and generate transferrable lessons of fossil fuel phase-out and decline? As a first part of this project, WP1 developed a theoretical foundation to support the empirical work in WP2-WP4. We structure the theoretical work around three key challenges to carbon-intensive decline:

  1. Balancing lock-in and just transitions during decline (Chapter 1).
  2. The role of carbon-intensive regions to shape and recover from transitions (Chapter 2).
  3. Understanding the multiple injustices that can arise from decline particularly in carbon-intensive regions to inform policy responses (Chapter 3).

In Chapters 1-3, we present a theoretical contribution which addresses each area while Chapter 4 provides guidance of on how the three frameworks work together.



  • Chalmers University of Technology

  • Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy

  • University of Sussex