In July 2019, the European Commission confirmed its agreement to the inclusion of the Midlands Region in the Platform for Coal Regions in Transition. The overall purpose of the Platform is to assist EU countries and their coal (and fossil fuel) regions with networking, knowledge sharing, and technical and advisory support. Membership of the initiative enabled the Midlands Region to apply for assistance under its START programme (Secretariat Technical Assistance for Regions in Transition) to develop a Holistic Plan for Just Transition in the Midlands Region, to assist with the development of strategies and projects for the region, focusing in particular on the employment challenges faced by workers affected by decarbonisation. Under the Commission’s EU Green Deal proposals, the initiative has now become part of the Just Transition Platform. This objective of the platform is to provide a single access point for participating regions for support and information related to funding opportunities, relevant regulatory updates, or sector specific initiatives.
I am informed that the Midlands Regional Transition Team (MRTT), under the auspices of the Midlands Regional Enterprise Plan, has undertaken a programme of work over the last year, with the technical assistance of START, to inform wider work on just transition within the region, which has delivered the following outputs:
- a Midlands regional profile, setting out analysis of the socio-economic and industrial context;
- an inventory of project proposals for the Midlands region, focusing on identifying key, credible, considered projects to facilitate a just transition. An open call for projects under this process registered over 150 projects, which served as the first phase of project identification for the Just Transition Fund;
- a report on ‘Future employment and skills in the Irish Midlands’ published in August 2020; and
- a report on ‘Midlands Pathway to Transition’, which maps a process for transition in the Midlands in the short and longer term, through the MRTT and involving other relevant government actors.
These outputs are available on www.midlandsireland.ie and https://ec.europa.eu/energy/topics/oil-gas-and-coal/eu-coal-regions/secretariat-technical-assistance-regions-transition-start_en.
As recommended in the Just Transition Commissioner's first progress report, published in May 2020, the MRTT, established by Offaly County Council to address the challenges and opportunities presented by the acceleration of Bord na Mona's 'Brown to Green' decarbonisation strategy, has been expanded to include other impacted local authority areas. The MRTT aims to pursue funding opportunities and actions to mitigate the impact of Bord na Mona job losses, and to position the region to develop alternative forms of employment, attract investment and maximise existing opportunities. The Commissioner's report also recommended the establishment of a number of working groups within the MRTT, with membership drawn from the local authorities and State agencies operating in the Region. Four working groups will address the following areas:
- Employment Generation
- Employment Continuity Pathways
- Community Assistance Programme/Social Enterprise Interventions
My Department’s call under the Just Transition Fund for innovative projects that will contribute to the economic, social and environmental sustainability of the wider Midlands region, and which have employment and enterprise potential, has identified a number of possible opportunities for collaboration between public bodies and private enterprises.
The Department published an initial list of sixteen successful projects on 9 September 2020 and I announced forty-seven further successful projects today, details of which are available on www.gov.ie. Unsuccessful applicants will be offered a further opportunity to engage with the MRTT to progress project concepts, develop partnerships and/or identify further sources of funding. The MRTT will also provide support, where appropriate, to projects that are successful in securing funding from the Just Transition Fund.