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Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment (Deputy Richard Bruton)

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Snippet Contents:

I thank both Deputies for raising this issue. I am aware of their intensity of feeling in this regard. I will just say a few things. Just transition is at the very heart of the climate action plan and Government has recognised that those who are most exposed to the impact of the climate transition that is under way have to be protected and that we have to support people. The co-firing plan was Government policy and was supported. It would have allowed for a phased withdrawal from peat. The result of the decision of An Bord Pleanála is being intensely reviewed. I point out to Deputy Stanley that judicial review is a very particular type of challenge to a decision. It relates to a failure in procedures. Clearly, that is different from what is now being assessed, which is whether a planning application can be made which would meet the requirements of the board. That is what the ESB is currently evaluating.
As the Deputy knows, the first thing I did when this information became public was not only to meet with the public representatives, including the Deputies, involved, but to meet with the worker directors of the company, the Oireachtas Members representing the midlands, the midland regional transition team, the regional enterprise team, and the regional skills forum. I recently also met with representatives of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. On foot of our July Cabinet meeting, we have set up an interdepartmental group, led by the Department of the Taoiseach, to work on the just transition plan, that is to say, to prepare for different contingencies that may arise in this context. That work is ongoing. There will be several strands to the Government's approach. There will be elements of diversification within Bord na Móna. I acknowledge Deputy Naughten's submission which dealt with particular elements of that diversification. There will also be a focus on an accelerated programme of bog restoration. Many recognise that this is an area on which we can work, perhaps not only in respect of Bord na Móna bogs, but bogs further afield. There is also a need for other regional initiatives in respect of urban and rural enterprise developments that can support the transition not only for the individual workers concerned, but for the wider communities.
I assure the Deputies that Government is giving this issue very intensive attention. In addition, we have secured agreement that the midlands will be part of the platform for coal and other carbon-intensive regions. A team from the EU will be visiting to provide advice on the supports that may come from that direction. At this point, the EU has not committed to any funding in this regard but the new Commission is certainly looking at it more favourably. I recognise that we have to show our capacity to breathe reality into the words "just transition" for those working in the midlands and for the many people who are dependent on those workers as part of the operation of the midlands economy. We are working on the issue. The Deputies' raising of it is timely. Deputy Corcoran Kennedy also raised it last week. I understand that there is intense concern about these developments in the constituencies involved. I assure the Deputies that it is getting very considerable attention from Government as we prepare for the contingencies that might arise.