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Retrain workers and a climate change centre: Proposals to help Midlands cope with move away from peat

The first progress report on Just Transition by Kieran Mulvey was published today.

Kieran Mulvey set out a number of proposals, including the establishment of a climate change centre.
Kieran Mulvey set out a number of proposals, including the establishment of a climate change centre.
Image: Brian Lawless/PA Images

THE DEPARTMENT OF Environment is to examine the potential of using the Midlands as a major hub for renewable energy following recommendations made in a report.

Just Transition Commissioner, Kieran Mulvey said that he adopted a “whole of Midlands strategic approach” in a bid to maximise their infrastructural, natural and human resources.

In his first progress report, Mulvey set out a number of proposals including the establishment of a new climate change centre.

Mulvey was appointed as the first Just Transition Commissioner in November 2019 as part of the government’s climate action plan to help create jobs for workers who have been impacted by climate change.

The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton said he will launch the first call for proposals for funding from the €11 million Just Transition Fund.

The fund is to retrain workers and help local businesses in the Midlands as changes are introduced to move to low carbon.

There are five key priorities, including retraining workers and proposals to generate sustainable employment in the region.

ESB confirmed last November that it is closing two power plants earlier than planned.

Among the proposals is examining the potential for using existing infrastructure in the West Offaly and Lough Ree power plants as an Energy Hub in the Midlands.

There are also plans to grow the existing Midlands network of co-working facilities, through development of additional facilities and hubs through the region.

Mulvey said: “There has been a very positive engagement from all the stakeholders in the region and it is vital now that the process can move rapidly to an implementation plan.

“I have adopted a whole of Midlands strategic approach with what I believe are practical actions across counties to maximise their infrastructural, natural and human resources and building on their existing strengths.

“The first part of such a plan is to receive and evaluate employment projects in the Midlands that have green enterprise and other employment/tourism potential.

“This period has to be used also to finalise the critical pathways for the retention of employment in BNM (Bord na Móna)/ESB, give certainty around the future structure of the workforce and to establish further employment opportunities in the region.”

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Bruton said: “I am acutely aware of the impact an early exit from peat is having on workers and their families and on the Midlands more broadly.

“Like many other businesses, Bord na Móna has also been severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic which is compounding this impact.

“Securing sustainable employment opportunities for the region and a just transition for those most severely affected must be at the heart of our response.

“A detailed implementation plan will be prepared in response to the report’s recommendations, however I believe we must take urgent action in some key areas.

“The Just Transition Fund is opening so we can get money to those who can make a big difference.”

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