I am very much aware that climate change represents a significant challenge for our economy and society. My Department’s vision is to make Ireland the best place to succeed in business, delivering sustainable full employment and higher standards of living across all regions of the country. It incorporates climate action into policymaking, and through our supporting agencies by funding research related to climate change and assisting enterprises to reduce emissions and achieve greater energy efficiency.
In terms of enterprise policy, Enterprise 2025 Renewed, the Government’s national enterprise strategy, recognises the effects of climate change and the imperative for sustainable development. The development of the green economy presents commercial opportunities to companies across many sectors in Ireland, in addition to the desired environmental benefits. Enterprise 2025 Renewed recognises that enterprises and enterprise policy have key roles to play to support, develop and adopt innovative technologies, products and services that increase efficiencies, reduce waste and deliver sustainable development. The ambitions set out in Enterprise 2025 Renewed are given effect through supporting strategies such as Innovation 2020 as well as through the National Planning Framework which has a strong focus on the development of sustainable enterprises.
The bioeconomy and circular economy are seen as both a means to support the modernisation and strengthening of Ireland’s industrial base based on the creation of new value chains and greener, more cost-effective industrial processes, and to create a more sustainable economy based on circular production and consumption practices. The bioeconomy and circular economy present a range of potential opportunities for firms, ranging from micro-enterprises to SMEs to large firms. These potential opportunities span the economy, from food, forestry and marine, to biomaterials and biochemicals, to bioenergy and biofuels. State-owned and semi-state companies as well as social enterprises are also engaging with the opportunities presented.
The transition to a low carbon economy is a central component in Future Jobs Ireland, a new cross- Government economic framework to prepare Ireland for the challenges and opportunities ahead in terms of the transition to a digital and low carbon economy.
Future Jobs Ireland focuses on five pillars namely:
1. Increasing SME productivity;
2. Embracing innovation and technological change;
3. Enhancing skills and developing and attracting talent;
4. Increasing participation in the labour force; and
5. Transitioning to the low carbon economy.
The development and implementation of Future Jobs Ireland is being led jointly by the Department of the Taoiseach and my Department. However, Future Jobs Ireland is a whole of Government approach aiming to enhance the productivity performance of our SMEs; ensure quality and sustainable jobs; and build a resilient and innovative economy. It will ensure our enterprises and workers are well positioned to adapt to the technological and other transformational changes our economy and society will face in the years ahead.
The work so far has included extensive consultation, the highlight of which was the National Summit on 22nd November last which saw over 200 participants engage with me and a number of my Ministerial colleagues, including the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Mr Richard Bruton, T.D., to help shape the Future Jobs Ireland agenda.
We know the move to a low-carbon economy will radically change important sectors of the economy, but it will also present new opportunities to those firms on the cutting edge of this transition. I recognise that we need to support our enterprises and workers in navigating the transition to a digital and low carbon economy. Through Future Jobs Ireland, we envisage the creation of a Transition Teams model to help prepare enterprises in declining sectors and workers in vulnerable job roles to take steps to secure their future.
At the same time, in order to exploit the economic and job creation opportunities presented by the transition, Future Jobs Ireland will ensure we have the right skills and the right regulatory, funding and policy environment in place to do so. Future Jobs Ireland also aims to maximise the potential of the circular and bioeconomy to promote rural economic development and growth and to drive sustainable economic development as we transition to a low carbon economy.
Government is expected to consider Future Jobs Ireland 2019 later this month with a view to launching the report at the end of February.
Finally, my Department is working closely with the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment in its preparation of the new All of Government Climate Plan. It will be aligned with Future Jobs Ireland 2019 and my Department’s Regional Enterprise Plans. Of particular relevance to economic green growth is the use of networks of businesses to deploy initiatives that reduce carbon emissions. Job opportunities arise in the manufacture of environmental goods, and provision of environmental services (e.g. renewable energy, efficient energy use and management) and includes employment across a wide range of other sectors including ICT, food, tourism, construction and financial services.