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Transitioning beyond coal: Lessons from the structural renewal of Europe’s old industrial regions


  • Stephanie Campbell

    (Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute, University of Melbourne)

  • Lars Coenen

    (Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute, University of Melbourne)


It is often assumed that a transition to a low-carbon future will have highly disruptive and potentially devastating effects on coal regions and their communities. However, evidence from the experience of industrial decline and attempted renewal in Europe’s old industrial regions demonstrates that successful regional transition is—while not inevitable—indeed possible. Fundamental transformation of existing industrial, institutional, social and technological structures is not an easy nor straightforward process but fraught with the challenges of creative destruction: while new industrial activities and structures emerge, existing ones are broken down. Drawing on the literature of regional resilience and innovation, the paper offers lessons, insights and cautionary warnings from the experience of renewal initiatives in Europe’s old industrial regions and illustrates the ways in which some of the seeds for a ‘just’ regional transitions to zero-carbon economies may, in fact, lie in a careful understanding of the potential to build on the specific historical context of the regions industrial development and capabilities.

Suggested Citation

  • Stephanie Campbell & Lars Coenen, 2017. "Transitioning beyond coal: Lessons from the structural renewal of Europe’s old industrial regions," CCEP Working Papers 1709, Centre for Climate & Energy Policy, Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University.
  • Handle: RePEc:een:ccepwp:1709

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    Cited by:

    1. Nora Stognief & Paula Walk & Oliver Schöttker & Pao-Yu Oei, 2019. "Economic Resilience of German Lignite Regions in Transition," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 11(21), pages 1-1, October.
    2. Oei, Pao-Yu & Hermann, Hauke & Herpich, Philipp & Holtemöller, Oliver & Lünenbürger, Benjamin & Schult, Christoph, 2020. "Coal phase-out in Germany – Implications and policies for affected regions," EconStor Open Access Articles, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics.
    3. Francis Pavloudakis & Christos Roumpos & Evangelos Karlopoulos & Nikolaos Koukouzas, 2020. "Sustainable Rehabilitation of Surface Coal Mining Areas: The Case of Greek Lignite Mines," Energies, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 13(15), pages 1-1, August.
    4. Jan Witajewski-Baltvilks & Piotr Lewandowski & Aleksander Szpor & Jan Baran & Marek Antosiewicz, 2018. "Managing coal sector transition under the ambitious emission reduction scenario in Poland. Focus on labour," IBS Research Reports 04/2018, Instytut Badan Strukturalnych.
    5. Stognief, Nora & Walk, Paula & Schöttker, Oliver & Oei, Pao-Yu, 2019. "Economic Resilience of German Lignite Regions in Transition," EconStor Open Access Articles, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics.
    6. Loïc Lévi & Jean Jacques Nowak & Sylvain Petit & Hakim Hammadou, 2020. "Industrial legacy and hotel pricing: An application of spatial hedonic pricing analysis in Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France," Post-Print hal-03065276, HAL.

    More about this item


    coal transition; old industrial regions; regional development; regional innovation;

    JEL classification:

    • O38 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Government Policy
    • R11 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - Regional Economic Activity: Growth, Development, Environmental Issues, and Changes

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