In July 2019, following representations by me on behalf of the Midlands Regional Transition Team (MRTT), the European Commission confirmed its agreement to the inclusion of the Midlands in the Platform for Coal and Other Carbon Intensive Regions in Transition. The Platform works as an open forum, gathering relevant local, regional and national governments, businesses and trade unions, NGOs and academia to promote knowledge sharing and exchanges of experiences between EU coal and carbon-intensive regions to enable regions to identify and respond to their unique contexts and opportunities.
Membership of the Platform enables regions to participate in multi-stakeholder dialogue on policy frameworks and financing for successful transformation of the included regions, to share best practice and to avail of support, in the form of technical assistance, for the development of strategies and projects for local regions, focusing in particular on the employment challenges faced by workers affected by decarbonisation. Though the Platform has not met recently, given the global health pandemic, the Platform is, and will be, an ongoing feature in supporting the Midlands region, and coal regions across Europe in their transition to a low-carbon economy.
The MRTT was established by Offaly County Council in July 2018 with the objectives of pursuing funding opportunities and actions to mitigate the impact of the Bord na Móna job losses on the individuals concerned, and on the local and regional economy; and positioning the region to develop alternative forms of employment, attract investment and maximize existing employment opportunities and resources. The MRTT comprises relevant regional and national authorities and stakeholders and my Department has also attended a number of its meetings. The secretariat to the MRTT has also been engaged in supporting the work of the Just Transition Commissioner, Mr Kieran Mulvey.
I am informed by the MRTT that in February 2020, a Service Level Agreement for Technical Assistance for Regions in Transition (START) was agreed between the Secretariat of the Coal Regions in Transition Platform, and Offaly County Council, on behalf of the MRTT. I am further informed that this programme of support will seek to undertake a series of preparatory actions and engagements with communities during the course of 2020, that, together with the work of the Just Transition Commissioner, will inform the development of a longer-term just transition plan for the region. I expect the START work will, in turn, assist in the further refinement of investment needs for the region, both public and community-led, that will also inform future Exchequer and EU funding decisions. My Department is in ongoing contact with the MRTT secretariat, as the START work programme progresses.