The Green Party have warned that the midlands could become Ireland’s rust belt, unless the Government develops a comprehensive plan to deal with the decline of fossil fuel employment in the area.
The warning came as the party launched their ‘Just Transition’ plan, based on Bernie Sanders’ Clean Energy Worker Just Transition Act 2015, to ensure protection for Ireland’s bogs and that the closure of peat-fired power plants don’t result in mass job losses or inferior pay and conditions for people as Ireland transitions to a low-carbon economy.
Speaking on the plan, Green Party Leader Eamon Ryan TD said: “The aim is simple: to ensure that workers and communities who rely on fossil fuel related employment are not cast aside and forgotten about as Ireland transitions to a low-carbon economy. The recent job losses in Littleton shows the urgent need for such a plan. State fossil fuel companies built up over generations should have to look at re-tooling plants before considering any layoffs."
“The end is coming for fossil fuel employment. Across the globe, the fossil fuel industry is suffering heavy losses and is becoming more and more reliant on government subsidies. In short, the industry is living on borrowed time. However, communities who rely on that employment must not be left behind. Communities cannot be abandoned in the move to a low carbon economy - the transition must be fair and fast," Ryan added.
The Green Party’s ‘Just Transition’ plan proposes that funding, currently used to keep the peat-fired power plants "on life support," be diverted to retooling existing plant infrastructure, re-training workers, providing job transition supports, social protection and attracting new industry in renewables, peatland restoration, or retro-fitting.
"Our plan will focus on those most at risk of job losses first – the peat workers in the midlands, for example," the Green Party leaded stated.
“There is an economic opportunity for our midlands community if this transition is planned well in advance. As just one example, the €120 million euro currently subsidising 500 jobs in peat power plants could fund training and grants in retrofitting homes – which could create 5,000 jobs. We are calling on Government to sit down with trade unions, businesses and communities and plan a long-term sustainable transition."
Ryan concluded by saying that, "with proper planning and investment, we can ensure that the transition to a low carbon economy leaves no worker behind, and prevent communities that rely on fossil fuel employment from becoming Ireland’s rust belt. All that is required is vision and political will in Government.”
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