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Deliverable 3.1: Assessment of participatory processes in sustainability transition measures in case study regions

Addressing the varied distribution of costs and benefits of the transition to a low-carbon economy across territories and communities is a key challenge for policymakers.  Transition processes away from fossil fuels have a substantial impact where they have been drivers of regional or local economies and local employment. From a social perspective, the impacts also vary across different groups in society, with detrimental effects evident, inter alia, in people losing their jobs, surviving with a reduced income, facing the prospect of reskilling or outmigration and increased energy prices. These socio-economic impacts are spatially differentiated, generating territorial inequalities. This presents a major challenge to policymakers concerned with cohesion, in a broader context of eroding democratic institutions and increasing discontent within marginalised communities and structurally weak regions.  

Place-based initiatives are increasingly prominent features of the transition policy landscape that can respond to this challenge by supporting deliberative participation. These initiatives range from EU-funded Cohesion policy programmes (including Territorial Just Transition Plans), regional development strategies, regional energy strategies, regional innovation strategies and spatial planning frameworks.  This report’s analysis of a selection of place-based measures in case study regions indicates that they have potential benefits from the perspective of deliberative participation. They recognise that the relative costs and benefits of transitions have inter-related political, economic, and social consequences with a clear territorial dimension. Moreover, their multi-level governance arrangements have the potential to delegate policy competences to lower administrative tiers and move participatory, deliberative processes closer to communities.  

Assessment of participation in these measures indicates that more active participatory processes are evident in policy measures devised at sub-national levels. Supporting the concept of active subsidiarity, place-based policies have promoted the emergence of new spaces where participatory structures and processes can operate (e.g. in the form of citizen committees, workshops and panels). Nevertheless, most activity is associated with basic forms (consultation and dialogue) at early phases of policy design (collecting evidence and obtaining feedback). Participation based on more interactive engagement, partnership and co-creation at policy-stages involving key resource allocation decisions is much less evident.     

This deliverable has been submitted to the European Commission and is awaiting approval.

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