Leo Varadkar at Transport for Growth: Developing Connectivity at the 2012 Summit in Leipzig, Germany on 3 May 2012 Photo:

Taoiseach urged to set up Just Transition Taskforce as matter of priority

July 30th, 2019

The Taoiseach has been urged by environmental campaigners to set up a Just Transition Taskforce for coal and peat workers in the face of coming layoffs and redundancies. 

Friends of the Earth Ireland (FOE) and Fridays for Future school strikers sent a letter today to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar imploring him to announce a Taskforce to confront the growing plight of coal and peat communities. 

The letter urged the Taoiseach to make such a commitment during a speech he gave on Sustainable Development Goal 8 – Decent Work and Economic Growth – at the Stakeholder Forum on the Sustainable Development Goals at Dublin Castle. 

Last week, An Bord Pleanala refused permission for the ESB to convert its peat plant at Shannonbridge in Co Offaly to co-fire with biomass due to biodiversity and climate concerns. The next day, SIPTU said that over a thousand peat-industry jobs could disappear over the next six months as a result. 

Additionally, ESB announced this month its intention to lay off half of the Moneypoint power station workforce and the Lough Ree peat station in the Midlands was closed down indefinitely earlier this month following EPA compliance issues.

In order to address this growing problem, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions adopted a resolution earlier this month calling for a Just Transition Commission that would put social dialogue and collective bargaining at the centre of the transition away from fossil fuels. 

The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action (JOCCA) report issued earlier this year recommended such a Just Transition Taskforce which would bring together the Government, the unions, the ESB, Bord Na Mona and all the stakeholders around the same table. 

“The Government’s failure to set up a Just Transition Taskforce is baffling,” said FOE Director Oisin Coghlan, who was at the SDG Stakeholder event today.

Their “refusal” to negotiate a plan for the closure of “the coal and peat stations is leading to a disorderly exit from fossil fuels rather than a Just Transition,” Mr Coghlan continued. 

Failing to implement a plan to wind down the stations threatens public trust in the rest of the Government’s climate action plan, Mr Coghlan said. 

Under the Plan published last month, the Government intends to establish a Just Transition Review Group under the National Economic and Social Council. 

“If they can’t even talk to the trade unions, how can we trust them to implement a new carbon tax in a fair and effective way,” Mr Coghlan said.

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