Speaking on climate action last week in the Dáil, deputy Willie Penrose told those gathered that communities in rural Ireland would “undoubtedly be affected most” by the changes coming down the line in agriculture; increasing carbon taxation; and the closure of bogs – particularly in the midlands.

Penrose pointed out that the recent announcement on the Moneypoint plant in west Clare was instructive about how electricity generation would be handled in this country. He also highlighted the fact that for some the changes will dramatically alter the way in which they live, affect farming practices and the types of employment that will be available in the future.

“There could also be many opportunities for rural communities in the production of green methane gas, micro-generation and mixed agri-forestry, but if we are to capitalise on them, we will need strong local economic diversification plans to smooth the transition,” he added.

Rural communities, particularly farmers and farm labourers, will need to be adequately incentivised and rewarded.

He continued: “Local diversification plans will undoubtedly cut across a number of departments from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to the departments of transport, tourism and sport, employment affairs and social protection.

“These plans must be consistent, coherent and always have the concerns of rural communities at their core. The climate action delivery board cited in the Climate Action Plan is one possible mechanism for achieving a just transition in Ireland. Is it being given consideration? There is no use in us waking up after the fact – we must act now.”

Community engagement

Meanwhile, Minister of State for Rural Affairs and Natural Resources, Seán Canney, pointed to the importance of maintaining a respectful approach to communities in the battle to save the planet.

He said the department was focused on ensuring that the impact of climate policies on rural areas and communities “is given appropriate consideration”.

The department is engaging with communities throughout the counties on these matters.

Minister Canney continued: “The needs of rural areas are important in the light of the contribution their communities can make to climate mitigation and ensuring our climate action policies will not impact on them disproportionately.

“Deputy Penrose mentioned microgeneration and changes in farming – all of these issues are covered within the Climate Action Plan.

Consider also the house retrofit programme and the fuel poverty scheme under which we are providing 100% grants for households.

“The effects are threefold – firstly, they help people to live in their homes more comfortably; secondly, they help to save on energy bills; and thirdly, they create employment in SMEs across the country.

“Of course all of this will cost money – and people’s way of living and doing business will also have to change.”