Offaly boost as Cabinet approves €108 million bog restoration

Minister Eamon Ryan in Offaly today to announce the funding

Justin Kelly

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Justin Kelly

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justin.kelly@iconicnews.ie

Offaly boost as Cabinet approves €108 million bog restoration

Offaly boost as Cabinet approves €108 million bog restoration

Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan TD has announced two major funding allocations for the Just Transition programme in the Midlands, designed to assist communities transitioning out of peat harvesting and into a new, green and sustainable economy.

The Cabinet today approved funding of €108m for Bord na Móna’s large-scale peatlands restoration project. The plan will protect the storage of 100m tonnes of carbon, sequester 3.2m tonnes of carbon out to 2050, enhance biodiversity, create 350 jobs in total and will deliver significant benefits and contribute to Ireland’s target of being carbon-neutral by 2050.

The Government funding, which will come from the Climate Action Fund, will be bolstered by an €18m investment from Bord na Móna, who are committed to a “brown to green” transition.

Many of those employed in this project will be former peat harvesters who have an intimate knowledge and long history of working on our bogs.

In further good news for the region, provisional offers of funding, totalling €27.8m, have been made today to 47 projects in the midlands under the Just Transition Fund. The projects represent innovative and inspiring plans from businesses, local authorities and communities in the midlands who are committed to creating a green and sustainable economy for the region.

This dedication from the community and targeted support will make the region an attractive and sustainable place to live and work. It will fund training and reskilling so local businesses and communities can adjust to a low-carbon transition.

The successful projects, which have been offered funding greater than €100k each, include:
The Empower Eco project which intends to deliver enterprise opportunities through the innovation hub in Lough Boora in Offaly. The project’s ultimate goal is to mobilise the Midland’s next generation of green-enterprise innovators and stimulate regional job creation.

The Bord na Móna Medicinal Herbs Project, where Bord na Móna will become a supplier of certified organic, ethically, and sustainably-produced ingredients to herbal, cosmetic, food and beverage companies worldwide. The project has the potential to sustain up to 105 direct jobs and create a prominent industry for Medicinal Herbs in the Midlands region, Minister Ryan indicated on Tuesday.

A project to build a Further Education and Training Digital Learning Hub on the LWETB Longford campus. The Hub will encompass an online test centre, classrooms and practical workshop spaces. The Hub will be used by learners in the Wider Midland region to undertake skills programmes which will lead to specialisations in ICT, horticulture, aquaculture, construction and manufacturing in keeping with the ethos of Just Transition.

Minister Ryan, who is visiting Lough Boora in County Offaly, where he will meet representatives of workers and management at Bord na Móna, said: “The government decision to commit €108m in funding to the bog rehabilitation scheme for thousands of hectares of peatlands is a major milestone. The potential of our boglands to capture and store millions of tonnes of carbon over the years is phenomenal. Bog rehabilitation and remediation is a wonderful example of Just Transition in action, where workers who previously harvested peat for power generation will now be the custodians of our bogs.

"This project will turn carbon sources into sinks, restore biodiversity and help us meet our climate goals. Employing 350 people, it will also be a pilot project for the just transition we need to make as we adapt our society and economy to tackle climate change. I would also like to thank the Minister of State for Heritage Malcolm Noonan and our National Parks and Wildlife Service for their role in this project. ”

Minister Ryan is also meeting some of the successful applicants for Just Transition funding: "I am delighted to visit the Midlands today and see and hear first-hand about the kind of innovative projects that are being generated here. From the applications received to the Just Transition Fund, it is clear that the midlands region is ready and able to create a new, low carbon future, developing sustainable employment for generations to come. I am inspired by the commitment from communities, individuals and businesses in the region to this journey and by the entrepreneurial and innovative spirit of the region. I very much look forward to these projects becoming reality and providing the opportunities that the people of the midlands deserve.

Just Transition Commissioner, Kieran Mulvey commented: “I welcome today’s announcement that further funding is being offered to these projects in the Midlands. Every funded project will play a key role in the Midlands successfully adapting to a Just Transition while also benefitting communities and individuals most affected by the move away from peat-harvesting. These innovative projects include sustainable retrofitting activities and carbon-neutral growing initiatives.

"The establishment of regional business hubs, supporting local business development and green enterprises, tourism, heritage and active mobility projects, re-skilling and training initiatives. All these projects have the ability to transform the Midland region and its communities. They will bring new, innovative, green energy enterprises with the potential to boost the economy of the region and create jobs.”

Bord na Móna Chief Executive Tom Donnellan said: "This is a major win for Ireland’s progress on Climate Action. Peatlands only cover 3% of the Earth’s surface but hold 30% of all the Carbon stored on land. They have a unique natural power to capture carbon and deliver significant wins for us and for future generations. Bord na Móna’s new Peatlands Restoration Plan will work with nature to make this happen and will demonstrate its leadership role in climate action, delivering on government policy and national decarbonisation objectives.”

Offaly Minister in the Department of Agriculture, Pippa Hackett, has welcomed today's announcement.

“The Midlands has suffered in the transition to the new Green economy but we promised to support the workers and the communities through this. This is what we are delivering today,” Minister Hackett said.

“The bogs are a magnificent resource for storing carbon, reducing emissions, and supporting biodiversity, and rehabilitating them is hugely important work. The Bord na Mona workers know these bogs better than anyone, and they are best positioned to deliver this vital work, which will help to sustain the local economy.

 “The community projects funded by the Just Transition Fund will create a sense of engagement in the move toward the Green economy. Already we’re seeing a greater sense of the need for climate action at school and community level so it’s vital that these initiatives are supported. It’s a good day for action on climate and biodiversity action, and a good day for the Midlands.”

Laois-Offaly TD Charlie Flanagan also welcomed the announcement: “I warmly welcome the approval of €108m for the Just Transition fund. This investment will go some way towards ensuring development of the Midland counties after Peat Power Generation.

"Between them, Bord na Mona and the ESB have provided livelihoods for tens of thousands of families in the Midlands over the past 70 years. While the investment is welcome, the Government must ensure the sustainability of economic and social wellbeing across the midlands.

"I am confident however that more will be done with the assistance of the European Union and national Government to guard against the Midlands counties becoming the ‘Rust Belt of Ireland’ in the context of new developments in our national energy supply."