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Accelerated Exit from Peat will be accompanied by Just Transition for Workers and the Midlands – Minister Bruton

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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.”

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:

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.

Further Details

In addition to the specific announcements above, a number of initiatives are being pursued across Government which will further support a just transition.

Just Transition Fund

The Just Transition Fund will support:

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:

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: ​

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:

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.