Coal, the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel, is a major contributor to anthropogenic carbon emissions and climate change. Coal mining and combustion are also a leading cause for premature mortality due to local air pollution. On the other hand, coal is also central to many regional and local economies that rely on its mining, transportation, energy production and exports. With changing climate and rapidly depleting carbon budgets, the urgency for coal phase-out has become more prominent and many regional economies are under pressure to transition away from coal in a time bound manner.

Thus, finding ways for coal phase-out without impacting the regional economies (just transitions) has become a major challenge. A survey of recent literature highlights the need to systematically analyze the welfare impacts of coal transitions at a regional level. Since the coal phase-out is not a short-term, but medium- or long-term process, answering our research questions require a dynamic consideration. With the use of optimal control theory, we envisage a contribution on the modelling framework to analyze regional coal phase-out policies. We systematically analyze the dynamic processes associated with the social, economic, political and technical transitions in coal-based regional economies. We also assess the impacts of disruptive changes like innovations in energy technologies or policy shocks due to climate related emergencies. The project outcomes would be relevant for regional governments in undertaking an equitable and just transitions away from coal and contribute to the global climate goals.

This project is financed by the GFF NĂ– (the research promotion agency of the province of Lower Austria) and is conducted in collaboration with researchers from the TU Wien.