Most Irish businesses will have to re-skill and undergo radical change in the coming decade to meet the climate change challenge as Ireland seeks to halve its carbon emissions, Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris has said.
Announcing a five-year national initiative – Climate Ready – designed to equip businesses with the skills and practical tools needed, which will initially benefit 1,100 companies, Mr Harris acknowledged companies had already experienced "massive" upheaval caused by Brexit and Covid-19.
The Government agency Skillnet Ireland, which has a mandate to advance the competitiveness, productivity, and innovation of businesses, has partnered with Chambers Ireland, Wind Energy Ireland, and Sustainable Finance Ireland to support the companies and their 3,000 workers in preparing for both the challenges and opportunities climate change will bring for businesses.
Skillnet Ireland with the private sector will invest over €10 million in the first tranche of the initiative from 2021-2025.
Companies will be provided with training on how to reduce energy waste, adopt renewable technologies, deliver cost savings and protect the environment with a view to reducing their carbon footprint. Helping to significantly reduce water consumption will also be part of the programme.
Online courses are to be provided to assist staff at all levels “to understand how their sustainable actions will play a vital role in Ireland’s collective response to climate action”; while a broad range of experts will share best practice on achieving sustainability.
Mr Harris said: "Irish businesses have seen significant upheaval over the past year due to Covid-19 and Brexit. Climate change is a reality for businesses too and it is essential we help businesses prepare for this radical change."
Climate Ready, he added, “supports our climate goals by providing every Irish business with the opportunity to build the skills they need to prepare for this challenge and capitalise on the many opportunities the green economy will offer”.
Minister for the Environment, Climate, and Communications Eamon Ryan said businesses had a crucial role in decarbonising the country. "The Climate Action Bill approved by Government commits Ireland to halving greenhouse gas emissions by the end of the decade and achieving net-zero by 2050. Actions taken by business will be critical to achieving these ambitions," he said. "Climate Ready will equip Irish businesses to prepare for this transformation of our economy, ensuring we can achieve a cleaner, greener and more prosperous future for us all."
Skillnet Ireland chief executive Paul Healy said "practically every industry, business and job" will be impacted by climate action in some way over the coming decade and now was the time to show courage and ambition. "Entire sectors of the economy will experience radical change resulting in the formation of new types of enterprises and green jobs," he said.
Expanding year on year, it would provide businesses with “the best chance of being profitable as they aim to meet low-carbon commitments”, he predicted.
He added: “We have developed Climate Ready to ensure Irish businesses have access to the leading edge supports they need to build sustainable operating models and develop the talent to respond to this shift. Taking action now is critical to ensuring our businesses remain resilient and competitive.”
"Through the combined networks of our local chambers and Skillnet Ireland, we can make a real and tangible contribution to building sustainable and competitive businesses and communities," said Chambers Ireland chief executive Ian Talbot.
Climate Ready supports the aims of the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science’s strategic statement as it applies to climate action, by “ensuring the provision of a workforce skilled in sustainable techniques and technologies”.