‘There are no jobs on a dead planet’ – Eamon Ryan

Deputy Eamon Ryan, Green Party leader, told those gathered at a conference on the environment and ‘Just Transition’ earlier this week that: “There are no jobs on a dead planet.”

He also pointed to the fact that this is the very scenario Ireland faces “if we keep going the way we are going”.

Ryan’s sentiments were expressed during the ‘Building A Just Transition: The Case for Bord na Móna‘ conference in Tullamore on Tuesday, April 30.

He said that in order to achieve transition “in a just and fair manner” society as a whole needs to “work together” in a setting that respects people, nature and the environment.

Our country works well when we work together with a common goal.

He continued: “We are good at that and when we made similar leaps in the past – 1916 for example and then again in the late 1950s when we went from a closed economy to an open economy – those leaps occurred when we came together with our overall vision of where we wanted to go.”

Ryan went on to say that right here, right now Just Transition is the big deal – “the next big leap of faith we must all take together”.

He pointed out that in order for the leap to succeed the social infrastructure must be in place.

This, he added, will not be about a formal political system but rather a multifaceted approach encompassing public participation.

Just Transition is the big deal now; this is what we seek to do and I hope that we get the social infrastructure to take the leap that we need to do.

He continued: “This cannot be about a formal political system; it has to be community involvement. We must take what was started with the national dialogue on climate change and roll that out across the country so that everyone is involved and everyone is participating.

“We ask people for help; we tell them what to do or listen with real sincerity to what our local communities think and how might the situation work best for them. Every place matters and every place is different; we should be open to those differences.”

‘The hard truth’

The Green Party leader said there was also a number of hard truths that Bord na Móna and the entire midland region needs to face.

One, he added, was biomass and its sustainability; the other focuses on the country’s landmass and what can be done with it to effect environmental change.

There are some hard truths; I don’t think the timelines that we have set for the continued use of biomass in power generation is actually going to be sustainable.

Ryan continued: “I don’t think it’s going to last the years that Bord na Móna seems to think is viable. Collectively, across the world, we are going to move away from the use of biomass in power generation; it will be taken away from one part of the world and that is not an efficient use of it.”

He went on then to point out that one of the hard questions Bord na Mona is going to have to ask itself is: “Are we going to continue exporting soil – that has been built up over thousands of years in Ireland and is a vital store of carbon – to be used in an English country garden?”

‘Just Transition’

Ryan said that any transition away from our traditional way of doing things must be just.

He pointed out that one of the “critical recommendations” in the Oireachtas committee report on climate action focused on a new land use plan.

“We really need to think big about what we are going to do with our land,” he added.

“Within that, probably the biggest improvement we can make in our contribution to global climate change is actually in the management of our bogs, and in a researched and scientific way figure out how we are going to keep that carbon in the ground rather than see it evaporating in an English flowerpot.

We also need to look at – and the state needs to have a big role here – the landholdings that Bord na Móna and Coillte have.

Ryan continued: “It is these lands that need to be the primary location where the country locates its new power supply. There is a huge, huge job to be done in Bord na Móna in terms of those power supplies.”

Stepping up to the plate

The Green Party leader also pointed to the retrofitting of houses and highlighted how Bord na Móna holds the opportunity in the palm of its hand to create and generate those employment opportunities.

“Retrofitting houses is another thing that we need to do; as a country we have committed to retrofitting 75,000 houses per annum and yet last year we did 200. We have to go from 200 to 75,000 in the next few years,” Ryan continued.

Then we learn that there is not the workforce there to carry out the retrofitting of houses like we had planned.

“We need trained, ready-to-go, in place staff that can do the job; for Bord na Móna there is a job of creating thousands of apprenticeships and creating 18,000 jobs just in that one area alone; this is something that we need to achieve in the next few years if we really want to make the leap.”

Reviving rural Ireland

Before concluding the Green Party leader pointed to rural Ireland and how the retrofitting initiative could be the very spark that ignites its revival.

“Retrofitting is not a small job but that is what we have to do and we need to start this in rural Ireland,” he added.

This should be the new revival turning point for rural Ireland.

Continuing, Ryan insisted that all of this can all be done “in the same spirit that Bord na Móna was set up in  – the same sense of pride in place – that is what we need”.

“A sense of love of nature in our own land and we are part of nature – we are not separate to it. Let’s look after it and in that way we look after each other,” he concluded.