Wednesday, 19 May 2021
Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment
64. To ask the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the funding in each year provided for a just transition; the drawdown in each year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26842/21]
65. To ask the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the number of jobs that have been created in each county using just transition funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26843/21]
66. To ask the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the number of persons who have been provided with upskilling, retraining or further educational opportunities using just transition funding in each year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26844/21]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 64 to 66, inclusive, together.
The Government is committed to a just transition in the Midlands region and has dedicated significant funding to supporting workers, companies and communities affected by the closure of the peat-fired power stations and the end of peat harvesting by Bord na Mona.
The Just Transition Fund was established in 2020 to support innovative projects that contribute to the economic, social and environmental sustainability of the wider Midlands region and which have employment and enterprise potential. The Department held a competitive call for applications to this Fund, which closed on 17 July 2020, in response to which over 100 applications were received. 16 'Strand 1' projects, announced in September 2020, have concluded grant agreements with the Department, to a total value of €1.2m.
Provisional offers have been issued to a further 47 successful applicants through ‘Strand 2’, with a funding provisional value of €27.8m. There have been no pre-funding or drawdown requests made for strand 2 projects as the Department is currently in the process of finalising grant agreements with these projects. €11 million has been allocated to the Just Transition Fund through my Department's Vote in 2021. I expect that a significant quantum of funding will issue to projects towards late 2021 and early 2022 as projects incur spend and seek reimbursement.Allocations in future years will depend on the total funding requirements for all projects that conclude grant agreements with my Department.
Strand 1 projects have reported to my Department that they intend to create 28 full-time jobs and that 175 indirect jobs will be supported as a result across the eligible eight counties included in the Just Transition Fund: East Galway, Kildare, Laois, Longford, North Tipperary, Offaly, Roscommon, Westmeath. This funding has also leveraged €383,000 in additional funding in the region. Once grant agreements have been finalised, the Department will report on expected job creation numbers by 'Strand 2' projects.
A number of projects funded under Strand 1 and planned under Strand 2 intend to provide support for up-skilling, retraining and educational opportunities. All projects will be required to report annually to my Department on their implementation and information on the number of individuals supported in this respect will be included in this reporting where relevant.
In addition to the Just Transition Fund, the Government is also investing significant further funding in the Midlands Region to support a just transition. The Government approved funding of €108 million for Bord na Móna’s large-scale peatlands restoration project, which will see Bord na Mona reassign employees from peat harvesting activities into rehabilitation operations, while supporting the natural environment and biodiversity of the peatlands. This plan and the National Parks and Wildlife Service Peatland Scheme willsupport350 jobs. Taking seasonality into account, this equates to 230 full-time equivalent roles.
The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage is delivering the €20 million Midlands Retrofit Programme, through which at least 750 Local Authority homes will benefit from retrofitting works by the end of 2021. Home retrofits are highly labour-intensive so this investment will drive expansion of labour activity in the construction/ retrofit sector, leading to preservation of existing, and creation of new, jobs.
A Territorial Just Transition Plan is being prepared by my Department to avail of up to €77 million in EU funding from the EU Just Transition Fund with a similar level of match funding from the Exchequer over the period to 2027. It is expected that a significant element of this will be committed to eligible projects in the Midlands supporting employment in the region.
The Government appointed Mr Kieran Mulvey as Just Transition Commissioner in November 2019 to facilitate discussions and work with stakeholders to develop, mobilise and deliver opportunities for the Midlands for both the workers directly affected and the wider community. The Commissioner is undertaking his work with administrative support provided by my Department. The Commissioner is also being supported in his engagements with stakeholders in the Midlands, as required by the Secretariat to the Midlands Regional Transition Team.
The Commissioner has prepared three progress reports to date and the first two reports are available on my Department's website at . I have received and am considering the Commissioner’s third report and I intend to publish it shortly. I anticipate requesting the Commissioner to prepare a further report before the end of 2021, with a view to considering progress to date in implementing the range of interventions that have been put in place by the Government.
I intend that the Climate Action Plan 2021 will contain a specific chapter on just transition which will address the Programme for Government commitment to prepare an implementation plan in response to the recommendations contained in the Commissioner’s reports.