John McNamara head of commercial and regulatory affairs with Bord na Móna told those gathered at a major conference organised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) on ‘Just Transition’, earlier this week, that the company is committed to the process.

It has invested in new green industries that will produce jobs through a number of channels in the midlands region.

The initiative – which has been mooted in an effort to identify key measures and supports for Bord na Móna employees and the communities in which the company is based – was discussed in detail at the ‘Building A Just Transition: The Case for Bord na Móna‘ conference in Tullamore on Tuesday, April 30.

McNamara – who is part of a team that is looking at the policy and regulatory environment at a national, European and international level and where the company fits into all of that – says Bord na Móna is now focused on ceasing peat production in an effort to lower its greenhouse gas emissions.

Transitioning with climate change

Just Transition, meanwhile, is described as “a framework that has been co-opted by the trade union movement to encompass a range of social interventions needed to secure workers’ jobs and livelihoods when economies are shifting to sustainable production”.

It includes avoiding climate change, protecting biodiversity and ending war as well as other challenges.

Separately, Bord na Móna was established as a semi-state company in 1946 to assist with the growth and development of the midlands region and to help create energy security for what would soon become the Republic of Ireland.

At peak employment in 2015, 1,200 people were employed in peat production at the company.

This week’s conference heard that in 2016, when it was determined that the Republic of Ireland had the third highest levels of greenhouse gas emissions per capita in the EU at 13.5t of CO² equivalent and over 55% higher than the EU average, Bord na Móna came under pressure to begin decarbonisation.

At the same time, energy-related emissions accounted for 61% of the total national emissions that year and peat accounted for 8.8% of Ireland’s energy-related carbon emissions.

As society and Bord na Móna begin to respect the decarbonisation journey over the next few years we need to look at the 2030 targets.

McNamara continued: “2020 is history and we are now looking at the 2030 targets. The EU is focused on reaching 32% energy efficiency – 32% renewable energy and 40% in cuts to greenhouse gases.”

‘Action and targets’

The Bord na Móna employee then pointed to the fact that since the draft climate action plan was launched a few weeks ago, even more pressure has been added to the mix in terms of targets and the responsibility that is on society – as a whole – to meet those targets.

“Since the draft was published the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton has set a 70% renewable electricity target and while the energies go across both transport and heating the electricity target is welcomed,” added McNamara.

While that target is set at 70% for 2030 at least 30% will be required that is non-renewable.

He then pointed to greenhouse gases and where the country now stands in relation to those targets.

“Where we are in terms of our greenhouse gas target, that 40% reduction by 2030 is based on a 2005 figure, and by 2020 we will probably have achieved one third of that.

“So, we have one third done in the best part of 15 years and 10 years to do another two thirds – that is the sort of challenge that is there in relation to greenhouse gases,” he concluded.