Curran to Further Just Transition Goals at EBRD

MDB set to play central role in North Macedonia’s 2030 coal phase-out scheme, which includes measures to support affected communities.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has appointed Brendan Curran in a senior just transition-focused role as the organisation increasingly prioritises emissions reduction in its funding programmes.

Curran has joined the multinational development bank (MDB) as Principal – Just Transition from the Grantham Research Institute (GRI) on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics (LSE).

He spent almost three years at the LSE GRI, including more than a year as Senior Policy Fellow, working on a number of initiatives exploring how social considerations can be built into the transition to a net zero economy.

During his time at LSE GRI, Curran led on its Financing the Just Transition Alliance programme, including driving strategy development and working groups, as well as its Place-based Climate Network. The latter involved a particular focus on mobilising private finance into place-specific just transition projects.

“I’ve always held a goal at some point in my career to move from a research role into a much more transaction-focused role,” Curran told ESG Investor. “I’ve been impressed by the leadership of EBRD particularly in the space of just transition, so when the opportunity came up, I was fortunate enough to get through that process.”

Curran’s new role sits within the EBRD’s Gender and Economic Inclusion Team. Founded in 1991, the EBRD using investments to help build market economies, primarily through financing in private sector firms. Set up with an initial Central and Eastern European focus, it has since expanded its region of operations four times, investing more than €180 billion (US$194.9 billion) across 6,800 projects.

From research to action

In February, LSE GRI established the Just Transition Finance Lab to support the concept that system transformation is needed to achieve a just transition, with Curran playing a central role in its creation. A report launched alongside the lab stressed the global financial system must transform to deliver a just transition away from fossil fuel dependence to clean energy.

The report argued that both public and private finance require a range of new financial tools and instruments to facilitate the just transition, claiming also that actions taken so far by financial institutions have been insufficient.

Curran will continue work with the Just Transition Finance Lab in a visiting fellowship role. “The lab’s applied research can only be of benefit to an organisation like the EBRD, which is trying to grapple with the complexities and deploy finance in a way that’s just to the transition,” he added.

Curran’s gender and economic inclusion team will work with a dedicated climate team at the EBRD to deliver on just transition projects. It will also collaborate with the organisation’s banking and other teams to ensure individual transactions deliver on the goals of EBRD’s Just Transition Initiative (JTI).

The JTI is comprised of three core pillars aimed at ensuring vulnerable communities and countries are not left behind by the green economic transition. These include supporting clients with high-carbon assets as they transition to a low-carbon economy, human capital development and regional economic diversification.

“The JTI is crucial,” said Curran. “It is foundational for everything I’ll be doing.”

Macedonian momentum

The EBRD’s historic regions of interest have been Central and Eastern Europe, including the Balkans and the Caucasus. Countries in these are regions have typically relied on heavily concentrated power generation, usually from coal or other fossil fuel industries within one or two locations.

The economies the EBRD operates in are among the most carbon intensive in the world, with their average greenhouse gas emissions per capita 20% higher than those of comparable economies with similar populations and per capita incomes. The EBRD region also contains approximately 25% of global coal reserves, with the largest located in Kazakhstan, Poland, Russia and Ukraine.

“We haven’t landed fully on what my geographical focuses would be, but I can say with some confidence that one of them will be the newly announced North Macedonia accelerated coal transition programme,” said Curran.

The investment plan is the first to receive funding under North Macedonia’s Just Energy Transition Investment Platform, which was unveiled last December at COP28. The EBRD supported the government in the development of the platform and will lead coordination with international partners. When fully implemented, the plan is expected to draw in as much as US$591 million in co-financing by 2030 from the EBRD, the World Bank Group, and the public and private sectors.

The strategy targets the complete phase-out of coal-fired power, the deployment of 1.7 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2030, grid and storage investments for energy security and measures to support communities affected by this transition. The phase-out will cost an estimated €3 billion by 2030, primarily coming through the private sector.

“The green economy transition will present significant opportunities,” EBRD’s Just Transition Initiative reads. “It is important to share these widely but also to support regions and social groups that are vulnerable to the changes transition will bring.”

An estimated 1.1 million jobs are directly or indirectly linked to activities in coal-fired power plants and coal mines in the regions in which the EBRD operates, while within the EU 90,000 jobs could be lost.

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