Following the announcement by the ESB today that they will close their two peat-powered generating plants at Shannonbridge, Co. Offaly and Lanesboro, Co Longford, in 2020; Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton T.D has stated that ‘Accelerated Exit from Peat’ will be accompanied by Just Transition for Workers and the Midlands.
The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton T.D. said today, 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 stated:
“The government has been working for months to ensure that we fulfill 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.”
PSO funded Bord na Móna bog rehabilitation programme proposed
Kieran Mulvey appointed Just Transition Commissioner
ESB Contributes €5m to Just Transition Fund
2 million tonnes per year less peat to be burned; 1.25m tonnes less CO2 per year
Peat is used in three power plants in the country to generate electricity. Today’s announcement by ESB arises from a decision by An Bord Pleanala to refuse planning permission for West Offaly Power station to co-fire with peat and biomass. Following a decision by the ESB today, two of those power plants will close at the end of 2020, rather than co-firing to 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 added: “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.
Bog Rehabilitation Programme
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.
In addition to the specific announcements above, a number of initiatives are being pursued across Government which will further support a just transition.
- The Climate Action Plan provides that a Just Transition Review Group will be established within the National Economic and Social Council (NESC) as part of NESC working group structures. Through this Group, NESC will review the ongoing transition and identify specific transition needs among cohorts of workers, enterprises, communities, and specific groups of people.
- Work on ensuring a Just Transition for the Midlands Region will be assisted by the inclusion of the Midlands Region on the EU Platform for Coal Regions in Transition. The aim of the Platform is to provide support for regions heavily involved in fossil fuel industries and provide opportunities for national, regional, and local representatives and EU staff to discuss how these regions can best decarbonise their economies.
- The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, SOLAS, and other Government Departments\Agencies will engage closely with workers affected in relation to available retraining, education and employment opportunities. It will also explore with affected workers opportunities through schemes such as Community Employment and the Rural Social Scheme.
- In addition, under the Department of Business, Enterprise, and Innovation’s €60 million competitive Regional Enterprise Development Fund (REDF) administered by Enterprise Ireland, the Midlands has secured total funding of over €3m under the two completed calls to date.
- Collaborative projects from the Midlands region had an opportunity to compete for further Department of Business, Enterprise, and Innovation/REDF funding under the €45 million Call 3 which closed for submissions on 25 September 2019. The successful projects under the Third Call are expected to be announced by the end of 2019.
- The Midlands stands to benefit from at least a further €2 million under REDF Call 3 provided that project(s) up to this value from the region have achieved a minimum threshold score of 60%.
- The Regional Enterprise Plan to 2020 for the Midlands was launched earlier this year. This Plan is focused on a number of collaborative initiatives aimed at ensuring that the Midlands can overcome challenges posed by the transition to a low carbon economy and renewable energy; positioning the Midlands as an advanced manufacturing centre of excellence; strengthening the attractiveness of the Midlands as a destination to visit; realising potential for growth in the food and beverage sector and Big Data (ILOFAR); and ensuring the availability of skills and talent to realise the Midlands’ economic potential and address upskilling requirements.
- The Midlands is a region rich in natural assets, culture, and heritage and this represents an opportunity for workers whose jobs are at risk from the transition to a low-carbon economy to find employment in other areas where their local knowledge and understanding of the outdoors could be utilised.
- Significant Government investment from a variety of sources, including the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund (RRDF), has been made in outdoor recreation infrastructure across the region, including in mountain bike trails, Greenways and walking trails.
- The National Development Plan, which sets out investment of almost €116 billion over the period of the Plan, includes four funds to drive specific priorities, including the €1 billion Rural Regeneration and Development Fund, the €2 billion Urban Regeneration and Development Fund, the €500 million Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund, and the €500 million Climate Action Fund.
Just Transition Fund
The Just Transition Fund will support:
- Retraining and reskilling workers to assist local communities and businesses in the Midlands to adjust to the low carbon transition;
- Proactive communications with affected communities and other stakeholders in the region and between local communities and the relevant national institutions;
- Best practice sharing networks and frameworks;
- The early development of local transition plans, with local communities at the core of plan development, based on economic analysis and local scoping of transition impacts and the opportunities it presents, acknowledging that the needs of individual areas across the Midlands will differ;
- Innovation and investment proposals to generate sustainable employment in green enterprise that do not come within the ambit of the four Project Ireland 20204 Funds or the State’s other investment programmes.
Just Transition Commissioner – Terms of Reference
i. 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.
ii. 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.
iii. 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
iv. 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.
v. In undertaking this work, the Commissioner will take account of relevant existing plans and programmes by the State (e.g. Bord na Mona’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
vi. The Commissioner will report quarterly to Government, through the Minister for Communications, Climate Action, and the Environment.
vii. The Commissioner will not have a direct role in relation to industrial relations matters in Bord na Mona who will continue to work with the Joint Industrial Relations Council established under the Workplace Relations Commission.
viii. 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.
ix. 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.