Minister for Communications Richard Bruton.
The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton T.D. said today, Friday November 8, that the accelerated exit from peat will be accompanied by a just transition for workers and the Midlands region.
The Minister also appointed Kieran Mulvey to be the first ever Just Transition Commissioner, to co-ordinate the government’s response to an accelerated exit from peat for electricity generation.
Minister Bruton said, “The government has been working for months to ensure that we fulfil the promise in the Climate Action Plan to deliver a just transition for workers and for regions. I am acutely aware of the impact that an accelerated exit out of peat will have on workers and the Midlands region more broadly.
"We are bringing forward a number of initiatives as part of our Just Transition Plan. The government prioritised just transition in the recent Budget, including a number of measures which will help ensure the transition which Kieran Mulvey, in his role as Just Transition Commissioner will now co-ordinate to ensure we secure long-term, sustainable employment for the Midlands.”
Following a decision by the ESB today, two of those power plants will close at the end of 2020, rather co-firing 2027 as previously planned. The remaining plant, owned by Bord na Móna, has planning permission until 2023 to co-fire peat with Biomass.The accelerated exit from peat will mean that at least 1.25 million tonnes of carbon will be saved each year and emissions will reduce by up to 9 million tonnes up to 2027.
Minister Bruton said, “Getting out of peat early will have a significant impact on our emissions. We must manage this is in a way that ensures the Midlands is supported through the transition.”
The government prioritised just transition in Budget 2020, which included a number of measures which will be included in the response:
- Just Transition Fund targeted at the Midlands becomes €11m. In recognition of their longstanding relationship with communities in the Midlands, the ESB has agreed to contribute €5m to the existing fund increasing its total value to €11m. This funding will support retraining and reskilling workers and assist local communities and businesses in the midlands to adjust to the low carbon transition. There will be further consultation with the structures in place in the Midlands, including the Midlands Transition Team, on the application of the funding.
- €5m for bog restoration and rehabilitation which will restore non- Bord na Móna bogs to their natural habitat. This programme will support the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) to restore 1,800 hectares of bog in 7 counties, resulting in 28m tonnes of carbon stored over the next 5 years. It will create 70 jobs in year one rising to 100 as the programme develops.
- €20m to deliver new model to group housing upgrades together as set out in the Climate Action Plan. Targeted at the Midlands, this will support an estimated 400 jobs directly and indirectly, as well as significantly upgrading the social stock in the region during 2020.
The Minister today also announced that the government has been engaging with the European Commission to put in place an extensive Bord na Móna bog rehabilitation programme, funded through a re-purposed Public Service Obligation. The programme will rehabilitate 77,000 hectares of bogs used for harvesting peat for electricity generation to a high standard. Engagement on the proposed scheme has been underway with the European Commission and this will continue to be pursued as a matter of priority.
The Minister today appointed Kieran Mulvey as the first Just Transition Commissioner. The Commissioner will help ensure a co-ordinated and effective approach to Just Transition for communities and workers affected by the imminent ending of peat harvesting for power generation in the Midlands region.
Minister Bruton said, “I am confident that Kieran, with his huge experience in a range of different projects, is ideally placed to become the first Just Transition Commissioner. At the heart of the just transition must be job creation and re-training. It must be about creating opportunity for the region for decades to come and to supporting workers.”
The terms of reference for the Just Transition Commissioner’s work have been published today. The Just Transition Commissioner will engage with all relevant stakeholders, including local community organisations, Bord na Móna, ESB, the Midlands Transition Team, local authorities and public representatives, and relevant trade unions and workers representatives.
The Commissioner will also review experiences and best practices in other projects and areas, nationally and internationally, and relevant existing State plans and programmes. The Commissioner will then recommend the essential elements of a Just Transition. The Commissioner will report to Government through the Minister for Communications, Climate Action, and Environment.
Minister Bruton will visit the Midlands region next week to meet with workers and community representatives.