Carbon-intensive regions in transition
The Government of Ireland’s Climate Action Plan, published in June 2019, commits to delivering a just transition, recognising the significant level of change required and that the burden must be as fairly distributed as possible. De-carbonising the economy presents significant challenges but also brings important opportunities to respond and create learning on how best to deliver a just transition. The Midlands is the first region in Ireland experiencing a concentrated transition away from carbon intensive activities. Jobs in peat will make way for jobs in renewable energy, bog rehabilitation and other new business opportunities.
Central to this process is the termination of the continued use of peat for energy generation. The widespread and ongoing effect of this decision will have both an immediate and potential future impact upon employment, local government services and the community. A key challenge is to mitigate these impacts, with employees and the community at its centre, and to create new opportunities for the development of the region through a combination of all the assets of the Midlands, together with local, regional, national and European Union supports.
The Midlands is a largely rural community where agriculture, peat and the energy industry have an important position in the local economy. Milling peat has a long history in Ireland, and is deeply engrained in generations of families that made their living alongside the peat industry. Two State Agencies, Bord Na Móna and the ESB, are synonymous with the Midlands. They have a positive track record of over 70 years of creating successful and innovative commercial State Enterprise activities. Bord Na Móna transformed the economic landscape of the region, with the Midlands experiencing in-migration, new settlement and community formation in predominantly rural areas, in close proximity to the bogs and the power stations that emerged. Together, they have sustained communities with large levels of employment, and good incomes and terms of engagement for their staff. Employees have a long history and tradition of continuous employment with both State Enterprises. In a large number of cases this has spanned generations. Moreover, both Bord Na Móna and the ESB have sustained many indirect jobs in the region both in the retail and services sector.
The Midlands must seek to pivot from reliance on fossil fuel energy production to greener renewable energy production using the existing energy infrastructure and converting to modern and future energy use. The region is central in the county, is well connected, especially to the capital city, it can provide a release valve for the development pressures on the eastern coastal areas including Dublin. This can be achieved by relocated business, second site or back of house facilities and remote working facilities, with attractive high quality of living, and lower operating costs than coastal locations. The challenge is to reskill the existing workforce who are impacted by the transition and to attract high skilled workers to the region.
The overall regional goal is to have the regional unemployment rate within 1% of the national rate. To reskill workers to deliver on an energy retrofitting program. To deliver 600 work stations in remote working hubs and innovation centres, adding to the membership of the Midlands Network for Co-working Facilities.
Regional businesses, local government, regional assembly, citizens.