Jennifer Whitmore on the Just Transition Bill

17 September 2021

It’s a big week – we’re back from a short stint of a holiday, the Dáil is back from its summer recess and Social Democrats TD Jennifer Whitmore has tabled a Just Transition Bill.

What exactly is the Bill, what’s its origin story and what does Deputy Whitmore think lays ahead for it?

We called her up to find out.

What does a Just Transition mean to you?

I think it’s something that goes beyond being just worker-based. I think there’s a much broader and inclusive definition and usage of the word that brings in communities, elderly people and people in rural areas. It’s really making sure that anyone who has to make any big adjustments to meet our climate targets are supported in doing so.

It’s also making sure the measures we put in place are fair by being more balanced towards communities and community interests rather than corporate ones.

Right – and is there any difference between this Just Transition Bill that you proposed and the one that Green Party had brought forward in the past?

Well, I updated it to include a definition of Just Transition and its principles that had been recommended as part of the climate committee process which the Minister declined to include in the Climate Bill. These principles are ones that the Scottish government have used in their legislation.

At the time the Government here said it wasn’t practical to include Just Transition principles [in the Bill], but in actual fact Scotland have done it.

The timeframe originally for the Commission of five years has also been extended to ten years because half a decade is a very short timeframe when we’re talking about this transition.

And why are you bringing forward now?

The reason I actually started thinking about how we can incorporate Just Transition into the work that was happening in Government at the moment is because it wasn’t included in the Climate Bill. That was a really big concern to me.

There’s an obvious need to have it included, and when the Government refused to do that I thought “okay well what are my other options, how else can I raise this as something that needs to happen?” and I thought: okay, I’ll see if I can do a Bill on it.

I did some searching and saw that there was a reasonably good Bill already from the Green Party that dealt with the establishment of a Just Transition Commission and enabling that Commission to do Transition plans.

When Eamon Ryan had it at its second stage in the Dáil [in 2018], he said that his Bill was a “critical piece of the architecture,” and I really couldn’t agree more with him. We need to meet our agreed targets and it needs to be done fairly. We need to have parallel processes where we’re working on Just Transition aspects and building blocks alongside legislation around targets and the Climate Action Plan.

If we don’t have that, I think it’s a real risk.

Do you think it’s going to pass?

I have to bring it forward as a Private Members’ Bill and I would hope to work with the Minister [Eamon Ryan] on it.

My sense is that there was obviously Government hesitancy in including Just Transition in the Climate Bill and I’m not sure where that was coming from.

The first version of this [Climate] Bill that came to the Climate Action Committee didn’t even mention the word “Just Transition”. When we spoke to officials, we were told that climate justice was mentioned in it and that they were the same thing – and we said, “no, it’s actually not.”

They put in the actual term, but it’s really not robust enough. There is a reason that the concept wasn’t really included, and I’m not sure where within Government that is coming from but my sense is that that’s still there.

So, I’m not sure whether I will get this Bill passed. I would hope I would. I would hope they would recognize it and the thing is – there is a lot of talk. They will reference Just Transition a lot, but we need to move past just referencing it. We need to get it actually implemented.

We reached out to the Green Party for comment on Deputy Whitmore’s newly tabled bill, but at the time of publication had not yet received a response.

About the Author

Kayle Crosson