Thursday, 8 October 2020

Ceisteanna (78)

Holly Cairns

Ceist:

78. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications the definition of a just transition; and if the information on which the definition is based will be provided. [29509/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

The 2019 Climate Action Plan defines just transition as the need to plan appropriately to ensure that areas most affected by Ireland’s transition to a low-carbon, climate-resilient society are supported and equipped to contribute to this transition, while ensuring a strong economy and the availability of suitable enterprise and employment opportunities. The Programme for Government notes that the transition to a low-carbon future will unleash huge changes in society that, while presenting significant challenges, will also bring a range of opportunities, the impacts of which will be unevenly spread and will manifest themselves in different ways. The Programme for Government, therefore, affirms the necessity for a just transition pathway to be found, which delivers alternative job opportunities to sectors and regions most affected, and ensures that vulnerable groups are helped, as transformative policies are implemented. This will require the anticipation of challenges and planning for responses to them.

At EU level, the European Commission Communication on a European Green Deal, published in December 2019, identifies the role of just transition in supporting the low carbon transition in a fair and inclusive way, and sets out the objective of managing the transition to address future significant structural changes in business models, skills requirements and relative prices, taking account of how citizens, depending on their social and geographic circumstances, will be affected in different ways.

The Government recognises that the transition out of peat in the Midlands is the first test of a just transition for Ireland.  The first progress report of the Just Transition Commissioner, Mr Kieran Mulvey,  published on 22 May, reflects a comprehensive engagement with relevant stakeholders in the Midlands, setting out the analysis of the challenges facing the region, and for Bord na Móna workers, their families and communities, arising from an accelerated exit from peat harvesting. The report contains important recommendations. The Government is already acting on a number of these and is committed to preparing an implementation plan to address the remainder, which I intend to publish in the coming weeks. The recommendations and associated actions will support job creation efforts and create new opportunities for Bord na Móna workers in the Midlands.

A number of actions are already underway which will support job creation. This includes €20 million for a new energy efficiency retrofitting scheme in the Midlands, and €5 million for peatland rehabilitation outside of the Bord na Móna estate. A dedicated Just Transition Fund is making available up to €11 million in 2020 to fund innovative projects that contribute to the economic, social and environmental sustainability of the Wider Midlands region, and which have employment and enterprise potential. On foot of its recent call for proposals under this Fund, my Department published an initial list of sixteen successful projects on 9 September and additional projects will be approved in the coming weeks.

The Government has also committed €15 million, as part of the July Stimulus Plan, in order to commence a multi-year programme to rehabilitate 33,000 hectares of Bord na Móna peatlands. This additional funding will support a just transition by maintaining jobs in the Midlands, as well as laying the foundation for more substantial and sustainable job creation into the future. The enhanced rehabilitation scheme will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by significantly increasing the area of wetland habitats in post-production peatlands. Further additional benefits include increasing biodiversity, improving water quality and supporting bog eco-system services.

The development and implementation of policy on just transition will also be informed by relevant research, including the March 2020 National Economic and Social Council report, ‘Addressing Employment Vulnerability as Part of a Just Transition in Ireland,’ and the most recent Annual Review of the Climate Change Advisory Council, published last month.