The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Richard Bruton TD today (Tuesday 16 June) responded to the announcement that Bord na Móna will suspend peat harvesting activities and prioritise peat rehabilitation.
The Minister announced that an enhanced bog rehabilitation scheme is currently being finalised by his Department, working with Bord na Móna, and will be announced in the coming weeks.
Minister Bruton said,
"Workers have had to face constant uncertainty as a result of court and planning decisions in recent times. Following today's decision by the board of Bord na Móna, I'm moving to accelerate measures to support alternative work opportunities in bog restoration and rehabilitation.
Just transition means sustainable, long-term job creation. Bord na Móna is transforming into an enterprise with sustainability at its core, and one which can create jobs for many years into the future. Jobs in peat will make way for jobs in renewable energy, in bog rehabilitation and in other new business opportunities being developed by Bord Na Móna. We must ensure workers and the Midlands as a community are fully supported during this transition."
The government has provided €36m to the Midlands to support the Just Transition in 2020, including:
- €11m Just Transition Fund - A first call for proposals is now open
- €5m for an extensive bog rehabilitation scheme in National Parks and Wildlife Service's land is underway, with Bord na Mona securing the contract
- €20m for new retrofitting initiative which will see houses grouped together and upgrades delivered in a cost-effective manner, starting with local authority social homes
Bord Na Mona are awaiting the outcome of a substitute consent process which is before An Bord Pleanala.
Minister Bruton said,
"I welcome that Bord na Móna have confirmed that all affected workers will be reassigned into areas which will deliver strong environmental sustainability and that there will be no compulsory redundancies. We are determined to secure sustainable, long-term employment and a just transition for workers and the Midlands as a community. Bog rehabilitation not only will deliver an environmental dividend, it can also deliver a tourism dividend, with facilities which can be used by all."
The Minister will take immediate steps to bring forward the National Oil Reserves Agency (Amendment) and Provision of Central Treasury Services legislation to establish the Climate Action Fund and will publish the legislation this week. The Climate Action Fund is one of four Project Ireland 2040 Investment funds and will be established on a statutory basis. This legislation will allow the Fund to be used to support measures related to Just Transition.
The Minister has also worked to ensure that the Midlands can benefit from the development of a just transition for coal regions in other parts of the EU.
The Minister said:
"Peat has been included in the Platform for Coal Regions in Transition and work is underway to draw up a territorial plan for the region which is the first step in securing new EU just transition funding.
It is important that the Midlands can benefit from the EU Just Transition Fund in the same way as other coal regions. The budget for the Fund is expected to increase from €7.5 billion to €40 billion over the period 2021-2027 and we will work to secure a significant increase in Ireland's allocation as a result.
The funding will support the re-skilling of workers, helping SMEs to create new economic opportunities, and overall diversifying economic activity, investing in the future of the most affected regions."
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
The first progress report from the Just Transition Commissioner Kieran Mulvey was published on the 22nd of May this year. The government's initial response to the report is published here
The Minister has taken the following immediate initiatives:
· Just Transition Fund: A first call for proposals for funding from the €11m Just Transition Fund is now open. 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. 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.
A detailed implementation plan will be completed as soon as possible.