Special measures to help ‘Just Transition’ in the Midlands – Corcoran Kennedy

-   Marcella Corcoran Kennedy TD

The Midlands region has been specifically catered for by Fine Gael in Budget 2020 to help mitigate the impact on moving away from fossil fuels for Bord na Móna workers, a Laois /Offaly TD has said.

Fine Gael TD Marcella Corcoran Kennedy said: “I am delighted to see that Budget 2020 includes a raft of measures aimed at alleviating pressure on Bord na Móna, its workers and their families.

“The transition from peat mining in the Midlands has been flagged for many years and it has been accepted by Bord na Móna and the ESB, its biggest customer that it would be peat free by 2028.

“Since Bord na Móna announced its decarbonisation transition last October, I have been to the forefront of campaigning for a ‘Just Transition’ for Offaly and for the region with my Government colleagues. I have consistently raised this matter with my colleagues in Government to ensure that workable solutions are delivered for all the affected stakeholders.

“In August, my colleague on Offaly County Council, Cllr Noel Cribbin brought a proposal to me to prioritise the retrofitting of properties in Offaly and other midlands counties impacted by the transition away from peat harvesting for energy generation.

“Cllr Cribbin suggested the establishment of a specific fund by Government to carry out much needed retrofitting on local housing stock and generate significant economic activity for the region. I brought this proposal to my colleagues, the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment, Richard Bruton TD and the Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe and intensive discussions were held in recent weeks in advance of today’s budget to devise the scheme.

“I want to thank Minister Bruton and Minister Donohoe for their assistance and understanding of the impact that the transition away from fossil fuels will have on the Midlands region.

“The transition away from peat, towards more sustainable, renewable energy sources, will have a significant impact on the Midlands and Bord na Móna in particular. Minister Bruton will shortly announce further details of a comprehensive, all of government response to support the region through the transition,” Deputy Corcoran Kennedy said.

Among the new measures introduced in the Budget include:

  • €6m Just Transition Fund targeted at the Midlands. This funding will support retraining and reskilling workers and assist local communities and businesses in the midlands to adjust to the low carbon transition. There will be further consultation with the structures in place in the Midlands, including the Midlands Transition Team, on the application of the funding.
  • €5m for bog restoration and rehabilitation which will restore bogs to their natural habitat and become sinks that absorb carbon. This programme will support the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) to restore 1,800 hectares of bog in 7 counties, resulting in 28m tonnes of carbon stored over the next 5 years. It will create 70 jobs in year one rising to 100 as the programme develops.
  • €20m to deliver 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.

Deputy Corcoran Kennedy continued: “To help communities determine the most pressing priorities Minister Bruton will shortly appoint a Just Transition Commissioner.

“The Commissioner will engage with all relevant stakeholders in the Midlands, including Bord na Móna and the relevant unions, and will work closely with the National Economic and Social Council and with the local taskforce.

“Investment of this scale in energy efficiency will support over 400 environmentally sustainable jobs, with up to 100 more jobs through expanded peatlands rehabilitation.

“I will continue to keep both the Taoiseach and Government informed of the measures taken and what needs to be done for the Midlands region.”

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