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Just Transition Progress Report is published

Government to Open Just Transition Fund for Applications

Sustainable employment for the Midlands at the centre of just transition response 

The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton TD today (Friday the 22nd of May) published the first Progress Report of the Just Transition Commissioner, Mr. Kieran Mulvey.

The Minister today launched the first call for proposals under the €11m Just Transition Fund. The Minister has previously set out five key priorities for the Fund, including retraining workers and proposals to generate sustainable employment in green enterprise in the region.

Minister Bruton said,

"I am acutely aware of the impact an early exit from peat is having on workers and their families and on the Midlands more broadly. Like many other businesses, Bord na Móna has also been severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic which is compounding this impact. Securing sustainable employment opportunities for the region and a just transition for those most severely affected must be at the heart of our response. 

A detailed implementation plan will be prepared in response to the Report's recommendations, however I believe we must take urgent action in some key areas. The Just Transition Fund is opening so we can get money to those who can make a big difference.

I'd like to thank Kieran for his work to date. He has engaged with all those affected to come up with a comprehensive set of recommendations which will provide the essential elements of a Just Transition for workers and Midlands communities."

Minister Bruton appointed Kieran Mulvey to be the first Just Transition Commissioner in November 2019. 

Kieran Mulvey said,

"There has been a very positive engagement from all the stakeholders in the region and it is vital now that the process can move rapidly to an Implementation Plan. I have adopted a " whole of Midlands " strategic approach with what I believe are practical actions across counties to maximise their infrastructural ,natural and human resources and building on their existing strengths.

The first part of such a plan is to receive and evaluate employment projects in the Midlands that have green enterprise and other employment/tourism potential. This period has to be used also to finalise the critical pathways for the retention of employment in BNM/ESB, give certainty around the future structure of the workforce and to establish further employment opportunities in the region.

I look forward to continuing to work locally with all the parties involved to achieve and deliver solid and recognisable community gains and to promote the Midlands and its potential."

The Report makes recommendations across a number of areas. A comprehensive implementation plan will be completed as soon as possible, facilitated by a Working Group chaired by the Department of an Taoiseach.

The Minister has taken the following immediate initiatives: 

  • Just Transition Fund: The Minister is today launching a first call for proposals for funding from the €11m Just Transition Fund. The Minister has said the fund will have five key priorities, including retraining workers and proposals to generate sustainable employment in green enterprise in the region. Stage 1 of accessing the Just Transition Fund is to register your project with the Midlands Regional Transition Team and START (Secretariat Technical Assistance to Regions in Transition). More information will be available on: www.midlandsireland.ie
  • Governance arrangements: The report notes the importance of effective governance in the Midlands to deliver a just transition. The required structures, fully informed by the report's recommendations, will have to be put in place, which will be done in the context of the detailed implementation plan. The Department will continue to work with the relevant local authorities in the Midlands, other Government Departments and State agencies and the Midlands Regional Transition Team to ensure this happens.
  • Use of State Agency Lands in the Midlands for Green Energy Projects: The Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment will write to State agencies and enterprises to identify land and facilities which could be of use for such projects.
  • Study on Energy Hub in the Midlands: The Department and ESB will commission a study to examine the potential for using the existing infrastructure in the West Offaly and Lough Ree power plants as an Energy Hub in the Midlands.
  • Electric Vehicle Charging:  The eight Midlands counties are currently served by 98 public Electric Vehicle (EV) charging points provided by ESB. In addition, the Climate Action Fund is supporting a €20 million investment to upgrade electric vehicle infrastructure and to provide new charging points across the country. The Minister has asked for an evaluation study on the potential to further expand the EV charging infrastructure nationally, including the enhancement of the charging network in the Midlands region, to commence immediately.
  •  Digital Hubs for Remote Working: Under the National Broadband Plan, 91 Broadband Connection Points will be provided in the Midlands over the coming months. These will provide the necessary infrastructure including high- speed broadband to support remote working in the Midlands. It is planned to grow the existing Midlands Network of Co-working facilities, through development of additional facilities/hubs through the region.

The Minister has asked that urgent action be taken on foot of the report's publication. A detailed implementation plan will be completed as soon as possible, with certain, high priority measures implemented before then.  

The Minister also today provided an update on progress made in other key areas of the Just Transition Plan for the midlands:

  • Midlands Retrofitting Scheme: Budget 2020 committed €20m to deliver a new model to group housing upgrades together as set out in the Climate Action Plan, as a  first step in developing a national retrofit scheme. Targeted at the Midlands, this will support approximately 340 jobs directly and indirectly, as well as significantly upgrading the quality of social housing stock in the region.  The scheme design has been completed and final survey work and procurement of the build programme will commence when public health advice permits.
  • Retrofit Training: A Retrofit Training Programme and National SOLAS NZEB Training Facility were officially launched at Mount Lucas on 11 March 2020. The Retrofit programme provides access to retraining to former Bord na Móna employees and focuses on retrofit measures.
  • EU Green New Deal: Ireland is engaging with the European Union to secure an investment in the midlands under the Just Transition Mechanism as part of the Green New Deal. 
  • Bog Rehabilitation: The €5m scheme approved by Government in Budget 2020 for bog rehabilitation has been rolled out by the National Parks and Wildlife Service. This scheme will rehabilitate 1,800 hectares on 9 raised bog protected sites across 7 counties in the Midlands. Restoration works will commence as soon as public health advice allows in 2020. 
  • An extensive programme to rehabilitate Bord na Móna bogs used for harvesting peat for electricity generation to a high standard will be developed. An Enhanced Peatland Rehabilitation Traineeship is focused on those employees who may be redeployed by Bord Na Móna in peatland rehabilitation/restoration projects over the next 3-4 years. It is intended that 14-16 Bord Na Móna employees will begin a Traineeship Programme each month during 2020 and 2021.
  • Centre for Climate Change and Just Transition: Bord na Móna have been working with a number of partners to progress the establishment of a Peatlands Centre of Excellence which would focus on the role peatlands can play in climate mitigation and adaptation. In addition, there will be a strong focus on the just transition in supporting communities and SMEs in developing low carbon, sustainable and circular economy enterprises. These developments will be complemented by a Visitors Centre that promotes climate action. Funding has been applied for under the EU LIFE Programme. A number of Government Departments and agencies have also committed resources to the project.

The Minister also updated government about the preparation of the Climate Action (Amendment) Bill, which is undergoing detailed drafting at present. 

The government's initial response to the report is published here.

Notes to Editor

The accelerated exit from peat will mean that at least 1.25 million tonnes of carbon emissions will be saved each year and emissions will reduce by up to 9 million tonnes up to 2027. 

Just Transition Commissioner – Terms of Reference 

1. As announced in Budget 2020, the Government is appointing Kieran Mulvey as a Commissioner to help ensure a co-ordinated and effective approach to Just Transition, focusing initially on communities and workers affected by the ending of peat harvesting for power generation in the Midlands region.

2. Just Transition is a framework that encompasses a range of social interventions needed to secure livelihoods when economies are shifting to sustainable production. The Just Transition approach emphasises a coordinated, long-term, and multi-pronged response involving social partners, industry, and Government. The Midlands will be the first region facing this disruption, and as such will present important opportunities to learn for other areas and sectors affected in the years ahead.

3. The Commissioner will engage with all relevant stakeholders, including: 

  • Bord na Móna and ESB;
  • The relevant trade unions and worker representatives;
  • Local community organisations;
  • Relevant structures already established in particular the Regional Transition Team and the Regional Enterprise Plan Steering Committee;
  • Regional Skills Forum;
  • Local authorities, public representatives and relevant State Departments and Agencies;
  • The National Economic and Social Council, which is currently undertaking a suite of actions on Just Transition as part of the Climate Action Plan and also as part of Future Jobs Ireland 2019; and
  • The EU Platform for Coal Regions in Transition 

4. The Commissioner is asked to recommend, having engaged with stakeholders and taking account of their feedback, and reviewing experience and good practice in other projects/areas domestically and internationally, the essential elements of a Just Transition for workers and communities most affected, including through:

 

  • Delivery of the Just Transition measures provided for in Budget 2020, in particular an operating model for the new Just Transition Fund; 
  • Implementation of other actions underway, or planned, by Government Departments, Agencies, and Companies, including the four competitive funds under Project Ireland 2040; 
  • Any additional actions\measures deemed appropriate; and 
  • Optimal structures or processes to support co-ordinated and effective delivery of a Just Transition in the Midlands, including developing liaison channels between institutions in the region and central government. 

5. In undertaking this work, the Commissioner will take account of relevant existing plans and programmes by the State (e.g. Bord na Móna's Brown to Green Strategy, the Regional Enterprise Development Fund), as well as provisions made in Budget 2020 to support a Just Transition in the region including: 

  • €20 million for a new energy efficiency scheme targeted, initially, at the social housing stock in the region;
  • €5 million for peatland rehabilitation; and
  • €6 million for a dedicated new Just Transition Fund                                                                                                        

6. The Commissioner will report quarterly to Government, through the Minister for Communications, Climate Action, and the Environment. 

7. The Commissioner will not have a direct role in relation to industrial relations matters in Bord na Móna who will continue to work with the Joint Industrial Relations Council established under the Workplace Relations Commission. 
 
8. Secretariat support for the Commissioner will be provided by the Department of Communications, Climate Action, and the Environment or the Midlands Transition Team as appropriate. The existing interdepartmental Group chaired by the Department of the Taoiseach will also be available to provide any assistance necessary as the Commissioner's work proceeds.

9. As this model represents a new departure in terms of managing the impact of climate change, it will be reviewed after two years to see if it fulfils the aim of ensuring a Just Transition for the Midlands. 
 

Preparation of the Climate Action (Amendment) Bill

The General Scheme of the Climate Action (Amendment) Bill was approved by Government on 17 December 2019 and submitted to the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel for priority drafting.

Key provisions in the Bill include:

  • Establishing a 2050 emissions reduction target in law;
  • Establishing the Climate Action Council as a successor organisation to the Climate Change Advisory Council with implications for revised governance and remit, including advising on economy-wide carbon budgets;
  • Making the adoption of carbon budgets a legal requirement;
  • Requiring the Government to set a decarbonisation target range for each sector. The Minister with primary responsibility for each sector will be accountable for delivering the relevant actions to meet the sectoral target and for reporting annually on the delivery of their actions and the achievement of sectoral emission targets;
  • Giving the Oireachtas a central role in the setting of the carbon budget and overseeing progress to delivery;
  • Establishing that the Climate Action Plan shall be updated annually, with actions in every sector;
  • Establishing that a Long-Term Climate Strategy, to match the period covered by three five-year carbon budgets, shall be published;
  • Ensuring that the proposed governance arrangements retain sufficient flexibility to allow necessary reorientation of policy in the light of changing technologies, circumstances, challenges and opportunities over the period to 2030 and beyond; and
  • Banning the sale of fossil fuel cars by 2030 and to stop the granting of NCTs from 2045 to address commitments in the National Development Plan 2018-2027 and the Climate Action Plan 2019.

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