Minister Bruton said:
The government’s priority is to assist Bord na Móna, it’s workers and the wider region as it moves away from fossil fuels and towards a more sustainable, resilient business model, that can secure jobs for the Midlands in the long-term.
Budget 2020 put a major focus on helping those most impacted as Ireland steps up our response to climate disruption. The government will invest €31m in a number of key initatives: €6 million for a Just Transition Fund for reskilling workers and community development; €5 million for bog restoration and rehabilitation on non-Bord na Móna bogs and €20 million to deliver a new model for group housing upgrades in the Midlands.
The direct measures on bogs and retrofits have the capacity to deliver up to 500 new direct and indirect jobs for the Midlands. I will shortly bring forward proposals for a Just Transition Commissioner who will coordinate work between stakeholders in the region and central government. The Government’s just transition plan will include these measures and will look specifically at how best the State can assist the Midlands.
The government recognises the pivotal role Bord na Móna will play in the transition and welcomes the update today on their Brown to Green Strategy and the progress being made to develop more sustainable business opportunities. Bord na Móna’s move to rehabilitate bogs will have a very positive impact, including reducing carbon emissions and increasing carbon sequestration over time.
I also welcome the announcement that an agreement has been reached between Bord na Móna and the ESB to supply peat to their two Midlands power stations in West Offaly and Lough Ree through to the end of 2020 and that engagement between Bord na Móna and its workers will be facilitated through the Joint Industrial Relations Council (established under the auspices of the Workplace Relations Commission).
Minister of State Canney said:
This investment secures a more sustainable future for Bord na Móna and long-term job opportunities for it’s workers and the wider Midlands region. I welcome further implementation of Bord na Móna’s strategy to move away from fossil fuels. This demonstrates the government’s commitment to just transition which is at the centre of the government’s Climate Action Plan.
Minister Bruton has met with the Chief Executives of ESB and Bord na Móna, public representatives, worker directors of Bord na Móna, the midlands regional transition team and the regional skills forum. He has also met with representatives of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, the Bord na Mona Group of Unions and the European Commission. The government will shortly appoint a Just Transition Commissioner and will work with all stakeholders to develop a comprehensive response for the region.
The government’s response in the Midlands has a number of strands:
- Bord na Móna diversification
- Accelerated bog restoration by Bord na Móna
- Wider bog restoration of non-Bord na Móna bogs
- An area based retrofitting initative
- Other targeted initatives for regional development
Budget 2020 measures
- 6m Just Transition Fund targeted at the Midlands. This funding 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.
- €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 stock in the region during 2020.
- Appointment of a Just Transition Commissioner. The Commissioner will engage with all relevant stakeholders in the Midlands including Bord na Móna, the Midland Regional Transition Team, as well as the National Economic and Social Council (NESC). This appointment will be part of the government’s just transition plan, which is currently being led by the Department of an Taoiseach.
Minister Bruton secured the inclusion of the Midlands in the Platform for Coal and Other Carbon-Intensive Regions in Transition, which supports regions affected by climate policy. The first meeting will take place shortly. Membership of the Platform will enable the Midlands Region to avail of the support of a dedicated Country Team, comprised of Commission experts, 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. The Team will also assist in identifying appropriate EU funding opportunities for the Midlands.