Ministers to meet workers affected in accelerated peat plant closure

Government ministers will travel to the midlands, to meet with those affected by last week’s decision resulting in an accelerated exit from peat, later today, Monday, November 11.

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Richard Bruton, will be accompanied by: Minister for Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, Paschal Donohoe; Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan; and Minister of State for the Office of Public Works, Kevin Moran.

The trip will begin with Minister Bruton taking a tour of a rehabilitated bog. The Government has “committed to a significant programme of bog rehabilitation as part of plans to secure a just transition for the midlands”, according to the Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment.

The ministers will then meet with workers affected from both Bord na Móna and ESB. Minister Bruton will also meet with union representatives and Oireachtas members.

Jobs and re-training opportunities will be at the heart of the Government’s just transition plan, the department notes.

These will include: 400 jobs direct and indirect being created to retrofit homes in the midlands, starting with social homes; and up to 100 jobs through the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) to rehabilitate bogland.

Meanwhile, Government notes that Bord na Móna will also be prioritising job creation with: 100 new direct jobs and over 150 indirect jobs involved in the development of renewable energy assets by 2023; 100 new jobs in new recycling operations; and potentially another 150-300 new jobs in new green business projects.

Also Read: 19-year ‘just transition’ for Germany; 1-year ‘unjust transition’ for Ireland – Fitzmaurice

Commenting, Minister Bruton said: “Just transition is at the heart of the Government’s Climate Action Plan. We are here today to listen to those affected and to see first-hand the new, sustainable opportunities that the transition to a low carbon economy will open up.”

The Government prioritised ‘just transition’ in Budget 2020, which comprised a number of measures which will be included in the response:
  • Just Transition Fund targeted at the midlands. The ESB has agreed to contribute €5 million to the fund, increasing its total value to €11 million. This will support retraining and reskilling workers and assist local communities and businesses in the midlands to adjust to the low carbon transition;
  • €5 million for bog restoration and rehabilitation which will restore protected raised bogs including Bord na Móna bogs to their natural habitat. This programme will support the NPWS to restore 1,800ha of bog in seven counties. It will create 70 jobs in year one rising to 100 as the programme develops;
  • €20 million to deliver a 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.

The minister last week also announced that the Government has been engaging with the European Commission to put in place an extensive Bord na Móna bog rehabilitation programme, funded through a re-purposed Public Service Obligation.

The programme will rehabilitate 77,000ha of bogs used for harvesting peat for electricity generation to a high standard.

Engagement on the proposed scheme has been underway with the European Commission and this will continue to be pursued as a matter of priority, the department says.

The minister also appointed Kieran Mulvey as the first Just Transition Commissioner.

The commissioner will help ensure a coordinated and effective approach to just transition for communities and workers affected by the imminent ending of peat harvesting for power generation in the midlands region, according to the department.