The Government recognises that early and complete phase-out of peat for electricity generation will have a significant impact on the workers, their families and the Midlands as a whole. In this context, the Government has committed to delivering a whole-of-Government approach to addressing this challenge, and to working with local stakeholders to ensure that people impacted can be best be supported.
Budget 2020 prioritised a number of just transition initiatives including:
- €6m Just Transition Fund targeted at the Midlands, to support the retraining and reskilling of workers and to assist local communities and businesses in the Region to adjust to the low carbon transition. In recognition of their longstanding relationship with communities in the Midlands, the ESB has agreed to contribute an additional €5 million to this fund bringing its total value to €11m. While details around the allocation of this fund are still being finalised, it is expected that it 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. In addition, I have invited the Just Transition Commissioner, Mr Keiran Mulvey, to make recommendations to me on the operation of the Just Transition Fund
- €5m for bog restoration and rehabilitation which will restore bogs to their natural habitat and become sinks that absorb carbon. 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 housing stock in the region during 2020.
In addition to the above, Budget 2020 included specific provisions for protecting the most vulnerable:
- A total of €52.8 million is being made available to retrofit the homes of people living in, or at risk of, energy poverty through the Warmer Homes Scheme. This represents the biggest ever allocation for the Warmer Homes Scheme – more than double the initial allocation for 2019. €13 million of this funding is ring-fenced revenue arising from the increase in the Carbon Tax.
- The changes to the Fuel Allowance Scheme led by the Department of Social Protection, will increase the income of households who get the fuel allowance by €2 per week which means an annual increase of €56.