Beyond Fossil Fuels – Just Transition in Colorado and Germany

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How can we transition from a fossil-fuel-based economy to net zero? How can we ensure this transition is just & fair?

What can we learn from each other in the United States and Germany? How can we get ready for a net-zero emissions society by 2050?

There is a growing understanding in the US of the necessity to shift away from fossil fuels towards green energy. Extreme weather phenomenons and devastating wildfires have made clear: Climate change is a fact and fossil fuels contribute considerably to this development.

Therefore, we need to move beyond fossil fuels, fast and thoroughly. This starts with coal, but does not stop there: natural gas and oil are the next steps in the process.

Yet, fossil fuels are still the main source of energy for both Germany and the United States of America. Beyond this, the supply of fossil fuels creates and secures numerous employment opportunities, including highly skilled jobs, but also increases the local tax base. This applies both to coal, gas and oil extraction, although the nature and quality of employment created differs from resource type to resource type.

Germany has gained valuable experience with the Just Transition approach both during the hard coal exit in the Ruhr Area, and now in the ongoing lignite coal exit in the Rhineland and Lusatia.

While world leaders negotiated at the UN climate conference in Glasgow, we discussed how the German experience with Just Transition can be applied to the situation in Colorado and vice-versa.

Due to the pandemic, speakers from Germany participated via video conferencing.

The event took place on November 9, 2021 at the Alliance Center in Denver, Colorado.

The program is sponsored by the German Foreign Office as part of their Climate Funds for climate action. We thank the Consulate General of Germany in Los Angeles for their support.

Opening: welcome remarks by Alliance Center and POCACITO, followed by keynotes by

Deputy Consul General Dirk Schulz

Heidi Binko, Executive Director, Just Transition Fund

David Takahashi, candidate for Boulder City Council

Session 1: Coal exit and beyond – phasing out fossil fuels


Christian Hauenstein, Coal Exit Research Group, Europa-University Flensburg

Micah Parkin, Executive Director, 350 Colorado

How do Colorado and Germany plan the phase-out of coal in the energy systems and what possible lessons can we learn from the process of the German Coal Commission for Colorado’s Just Transition Advisory Committee?

Session 2: Transitioning into New Industries and Jobs


Bernd Tischler, Lord Mayor of Bottrop

Dennis Dougherty, Executive Director, AFL-CIO Colorado

Sasha Nelson, Executive Director Workforce Education and Economic Development, Colorado Northwestern Community College

How can we ensure new job opportunities are available, offering good and skilled jobs? Haw can we train the existing work force and foster innovation and entrepreneurship? We will hear examples from Bottrop and Colorado.

Session 3: A Just Transition – Social and Equity Implications

Christine Herntier, Mayor of Spremberg (via video)

Shaina Oliver, Dineh/Navajo, Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Advocate, Field Organizer, EcoMadres/Moms Clean Air Force CO

Julia Guarino, Founding Director, Four Corners Rising

Phasing out coal means many environmental benefits, but also socio-economic challenges for vulnerable populations. How can we ensure the most at-risk are not losing out in the transition? We will hear examples from Lusatia and Colorado.

Please select closed captioning in English for a translated version.

Our speakers:

Christine Herntier

Christine Herntier is the non-party mayor of Spremberg in the Lusatia-region of Brandenburg. First elected in 2014, she was just re-elected in October 2021. She was a member of the German Coal Commission and is the speaker for the municipalities of Brandenburg in the Lausitzrunde (Lusatia Council).

Bernd Tischler

Bernd Tischler was first elected as Bottrop’s lord mayor in 2009 and has been re-elected in 2014 and 2019. Since 2009, he heads the planning commission of the Ruhr Regional Association. He completed his studies in urban planning at the University of Dortmund in 1984 and started working as an urban planner for the City of Bottrop in 1989.

Christian Hauenstein

Christian Hauenstein is research associate & PhD student at Europa-Universität Flensburg, guest researcher at the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin) & at Technische Universität Berlin. In his research, he focuses on socio-ecological transformations of the energy system, and in particular on the phase-out of fossil fuels.

Dirk Schulz

Dirk Schulz is Deputy Consul General at the Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany in Los Angeles. He was born in Hamburg in 1962 and is married with two kids.

After receiving his high school diploma in Norderstedt, which is close to Hamburg, Mr. Schulz served briefly in the German Army before he focused on his studies of German History, Political Science and Spanish language at the University of Cologne. After his exam he moved to Berlin where he worked for almost three years at the Free University in the section of History of public communication.

In 1993 Mr. Schulz started his career in the German Foreign Service. He has served the German government at embassies in Venezuela, Serbia, Paraguay and Nigeria. In Berlin he worked in different departments, such as the scientific cooperation, the crisis cell and the fight against terrorism and organized crime. Prior to assuming his current role in Los Angeles, Mr. Schulz served five years in the Directorate for cultural affairs in the Foreign Office in Berlin.

Brenna Simmons-St. Onge

Brenna Simmons-St. Onge works day in and day out to create an equitable, inclusive and sustainable future. With a background in corporate social responsibility, she spent over 10 years developing and implementing sustainability programs for some of the world’s leading hotel brands. Her endless passion to create a better future drove her to the nonprofit realm.

David Takahashi

David Takahashi and his wife Emily live in Boulder. David has deep energy retrofit a modest 60-year-old ranch to Net Positive, in four years. David is involved at the household, neighborhood, city, regional, State, national, and the global level. David is currently running for one of five open Boulder City Council seats.

Heidi Binko

Heidi Binko is the Executive Director & Co-Founder of Just Transition Fund.

As the co-founder and executive director of the Just Transition Fund, Heidi is responsible for the design and the overall strategic direction of the organization. With more than 17 years of philanthropic experience on climate, coal, and energy issues, Heidi has worked with coal communities throughout the US and internationally in Australia. In her previous position as Associate Director for Special Climate Initiatives at RFF, Heidi helped develop and grow the Institute of Energy Economics and Financial Analysis. Before joining RFF, she was the executive director of the WestWind Foundation, a family foundation based in Virginia. She also previously served as co-chair of the board of directors of the Environmental Grantmakers Association (EGA) and co-chair of the Climate and Energy Funders Group, a project of the Biodiversity Funders Group. Heidi holds degrees from Yale University and the University of Notre Dame.

Micah Parkin

Micah Parkin is a founder and Executive Director of 350 Colorado, a nonprofit organization affiliated with the global climate movement, which is working to solve the climate crisis and transition to a sustainable future. Micah has 25 years of experience as a climate and clean energy advocate, community organizer and nonprofit director. She serves on the national 350 Network Council and was a founding board member of 350 Colorado Action, Community Fruit Rescue, as well as Colorado Rising and Safe & Healthy Colorado, which organized ballot initiative efforts to protect communities from fracking in 2018 and 2020. She is a spokesperson for Colorado Coalition for a Livable Climate, with 34 member groups in CO. Micah was recognized as a 2017 “City of Boulder Hometown Hero” and received a 2014 “FearLess Women Leading GREEN” award and Sierra Club’s 2007 Delta Chapter Black Bear Award. She is the mother of two teenage daughters who fuel her passion to build a powerful climate and clean energy movement, create resilient communities and transition to a sustainable future.

Dennis Dougherty

Dennis Dougherty is the Executive Director of the Colorado AFL-CIO, which represents approximately 185 affiliate unions with membership totaling more than 130,000 working Coloradans. He is a member of Colorado’s Just Transition Advisory Committee, representing coal workers.

Sasha Nelson

Sasha Nelson is the Executive Director of Workforce Education and Economic Development for Colorado Northwestern. Sasha fosters workforce training space, and administers workforce specific academic programs such as Cyber Security.

Shaina Oliver

Shaina Oliver, a tribal member of the Navajo Nation from Shiprock, New Mexico, is an advocate for Indigenous Peoples’ Rights. In 2015, after the EPA’s toxic mine spill affecting the Animas and San Juan Rivers, which supply water to the Navajo Nation, Shaina became more aware that the environmental disasters that happen in Colorado—where she now lives with her husband and four boys—also impact her tribe’s well-being and future. Shaina began to feel her responsibility to do her part as a mother, aunt, sister, descendant, and survivor of genocide.

Living in northeast Denver, Shaina is just south of the Suncor refinery. Sometimes she and her family can’t step outside for a breath of fresh air. On very cold days, her asthma flares, and she must be cautious and stay indoors. She worries about her youngest son, who has more allergies than his older brothers—allergies that may be asthma-related. Testifying with Moms Clean Air Force at EPA hearings and in support of environmental bills at the US Capitol is one important way Shaina lives up to her responsibility to protect all living beings and secure a future for all children.

Julia Guarino

Julia Guarino is an attorney and nonprofit director with expertise in environmental law and policy, public lands and water resources protection, federal Indian law, and tribal law and governance. She is currently launching a nonprofit called Four Corners Rising, with a mission of assisting the Four Corners region to rapidly adjust to the changing economy by using the tools of equity to connect respectful resources to the community in ways that honor culture and tradition and address interjurisdictional challenges while improving quality of life for all. Prior to founding Four Corners Rising, Julia served as an attorney for the Navajo Nation Department of Justice, the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, and the Western Environmental Law Center.







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