Bruton to announce ‘all-of-Government’ response for midlands

Richard Bruton, the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment, is set to announce an “all-of-Government response” to support the midlands region in the face of climate mitigation measures.

That’s according to a spokesperson for the department, who told AgriLand that this announcement – for which an exact date has not yet been confirmed – would include the appointment of the ‘Just Transition Commissioner’ which was announced in Budget 2020 on Tuesday, October 8.

This commissioner will be part of the Government’s ‘Just Transition plan’, which is being led by the Department of the Taoiseach.

The transition away from peat, towards more sustainable, renewable energy sources, will have a significant impact on the midlands and Bord na Móna workers. Minister Bruton will shortly announce further details of a comprehensive, all-of-Government response to support the region through the transition.

According to the spokesperson, the commissioner will engage with “relevant stakeholders” in the midlands, including Bord na Móna, the Midland Regional Transition Team, and the National Economic and Social Council.

Details on the the role and the person to be appointed have not been made available by the department, but further information is set to be provided as part of the announcement on the all-of-Government response.

The spokesperson explained that the financial measures announced in the budget would also form part of Minister Bruton’s announcement when it comes.

These include a €6 million Just Transition fund, which the department’s spokesperson said would be used for “retraining and reskilling workers and assisting local communities and businesses in the midlands to adjust to the low carbon transition”.

This measure will involve consultation with structures already in place in the region on the application of funding, the spokesperson said.

The €5 million announced for bog restoration and rehabilitation is designed to support the National Parks and Wildlife Services (NPWS) to “restore 1,800ha of bog in seven counties, resulting in 28 million tonnes of carbon stored over the next five years”.

The spokesperson said that this measure would create 70 jobs in one year, which would rise to 100 as the programme develops.

The other financial measure for the midlands is a €20 million investment to “deliver a new model to group housing upgrades”, which is expected to create 400 jobs directly and indirectly.

The region will also be supported to draw down other funds “which are central to switching to a decarbonised economy”, the spokesperson concluded.