Bill would help workers hit by move from fossil to green economy

Green Party legislation would help 500 Bord na Móna workers set to lose jobs in midlands

Green Party: Pippa Hackett, Eamon Ryan and Grace O’Sullivan. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

A Bill proposing the setting up of a “just transition” process to support workers and communities forced to make the transition from a fossil-fuel economy has been proposed by the Green Party.

The Just Transition (Worker and Community Environmental Rights) Bill 2018 includes establishing a national just transition commission and, if adopted, would help nearly 500 Bord na Móna workers set to lose their jobs in the midlands.

The legislation recognises the need to “transition from a fossil fuel economy to a climate-friendly one as fast as possible, in the fairest way possible”.

The Bill was introduced in Dáil Éireann on Wednesday by party leader Eamon Ryan who is confident it will receive sufficient cross-party support to be adopted by the Oireachtas in the same way its 2017 Waste Reduction Bill and a private members fossil fuel divestment bill were passed.


Mr Ryan said the just transition concept meant bringing together workers; communities, employers, and government in social dialogue to formulate and drive the concrete plans, policies, and investments needed for a fast and fair transformation to a low-carbon economy.

Party spokeswoman for agriculture Pippa Hackett said Offaly had been hit particularly hard by Bord na Móna’s announcement. “Hundreds of workers in communities that have relied on fossil fuel industries for their livelihood for generations are being told they will be let go with no real plan in place to help them in the future. A national commission is needed to allow for dialogue and engagement on the best way forward and to help regenerate our towns and villages in the midlands.”

By investing State funds cleverly, multiples of the employment that would be lost as peat-fired power plants were wound down could be created in retro-fitting housing or renewable energy, Mr Ryan said. "Making the transition is going to be good for rural Ireland as we promote clean green energy, food, tourism and digital industries."

At a party briefing Senator Grace O'Sullivan said the approach had been successfully implemented in Scotland where oil and gas extraction has been a significant source of employment since the 1970s.

“With proper planning and investment, we can ensure that the transition to a low carbon economy leaves no one behind, and prevent communities that rely on fossil fuel employment from becoming Ireland’s rust belt,” she added.

People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith has called on the Government to support her Climate Emergency Measure Bill which proposes a ban on the future granting of licences for fossil fuel exploration and extraction in Ireland.

She added: “We are among the worst performers on reducing our CO2 emissions and nothing in current Government policy suggest that this Government has the slightest understanding of how catastrophic climate change is and how limited the timeframe for action is.”

The key issue was whether of Minister of State for Natural Resources Sean Canney would support the Bill, or continue to support an industry "that is destroying the planet and its life. We need to stop searching for more fossil fuels given that we can't burn 80 per cent of what has already been found globally".

Meanwhile, Labour local area representative on Cork City Council Peter Horgan has said responsibility for provision of alternative transport "should be stripped from Shane Ross, the Minister for Transport, and given to Minister for Climate Action Richard Bruton".

"Alternative transport to single occupancy vehicle use is a golden ticket to reducing commuter chaos and our carbon footprint," Mr Horgan said in a statement.

“The Minister responsible so far has failed to view cycling in this regard. We had over 281,000 journeys on the Cork Public Bike Scheme In 2017, yet we still await any sort of expansion to encourage even more to commute to work and school in Cork and elsewhere,” he added.

Perhaps the minister “tasked with reducing our carbon footprint would have more impetus to make the changes necessary to get us out of our cars and utilising other [TRANSPORT]modes”, he said. This would also require significant infrastructure investment to enhance safety measures for those who choose to leave the car behind.

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times