Massive programme of investment will help support green jobs, energy and agriculture – in the move away from fossil fuels and peat extraction.
Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan, along with Ministers across Government parties, today launched Ireland’s Programme for the EU Just Transition Fund at the Corlea Trackway Visitor Centre in Kenagh, County Longford. In attendance were Minister of State Peter Burke; Minister of State Anne Rabbitte; Minister of State Pippa Hackett; Minister of State Malcolm Noonan; and Minister of State Seán Fleming.
The event was also attended by Sofia Alves, Director at the European Commission’s Directorate General for Regional and Urban Policy (DG REGIO).
The €169 million fund will support communities most negatively affected by the move away from fossil fuels and the cessation of commercial peat extraction. These ‘Designated Territories’ include the counties of Laois, Longford, Offaly, Westmeath, Roscommon, and the Municipal Districts of Ballinasloe (Co. Galway), Athy and Clane-Maynooth (Co. Kildare), and Carrick-on-Suir and Thurles (Co. Tipperary).
The fund, which will be in place until 2027, will ensure that no-one is left behind by the climate transition and will promote economic, social, and territorial cohesion in line with key EU priorities. It will support training and upskilling for former peat workers. For their communities, this funding will enable them to benefit from new green jobs, the development of affordable green energy, the decarbonisation of local transport, and the roll-out of new tourism enterprises. It will also support investment in sustainable agriculture and forestry, the development of SMEs and start-ups, as well as support for vital research and innovation.
Commenting at the launch, Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications Eamon Ryan said:
“We have secured €169 million for the region in total, including €84.5 million of EU funding along with national co-financing, to ensure that we have a just transition to a green future. It is critical that no one is left behind as Ireland navigates towards the net-zero vision set out in our Climate Action Plan.
“While fairness is at the centre of this fund, and the green jobs, green energy and green agriculture that it can support, we also have to ensure that the transition is quick. If it’s not fair it won’t be quick. And if it’s not quick, it won’t be fair. The two aims have to go together. The adoption of this programme represents the culmination of extensive effort at European, national, regional, and local level. I would like to acknowledge and thank all those involved and wish those with the responsibility of implementing the Programme every success in the years ahead.”
Tourism initiatives for region allocated €68m
Though not present at today’s event, Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media Catherine Martin said:
“I welcome today’s launch of Ireland’s Programme for the EU Just Transition Fund and, in particular, the investment of €68 million in tourism in the Midlands. In order to achieve this ambitious programme of development, €38 million is being allocated for Regenerative Tourism business supports and €30 million for a Tourism Trails Network to be divided across the entire affected region.
“This Regenerative Tourism Scheme will be a driver of employment for the midlands area, with the funding to be broken down under four strands. These strands will deliver a strategic network of connected walking, cycling and water trails across the Midlands; help support public, private and community-based tourism enterprises to enhance and sustain local economies; and provide a range of supports for smart transformation and entrepreneurship.
“This investment is very much in line with the Programme for Government commitment for the development of a Sustainable Tourism Policy. The new tourism policy will highlight the need for continued support for sustainable economic development in communities throughout the country, whilst protecting our environment and natural resources, and with a greater spread of demand across the year.”
Opportunities and supports for Enterprise
Speaking at Corlea Trackway Visitor Centre in County Longford, Minister of State for European Affairs and Defence Peter Burke said:
“The Programme for the EU Just Transition Fund highlights the extent of new possibilities for enterprise and development under the EU Green Deal. I am proud that this programme has developed through the strong relationships and productive collaboration that Ireland enjoys with our European partners. I welcome the support provided to the Midlands as we move away from using peat for power generation, in recognition of the need to support regions across the EU which have been most impacted by the transition to a low-carbon economy.”
Minister of State at the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, with special responsibility for Disability, Anne Rabbitte said:
“A just transition is about leaving nobody behind, as we move to a more sustainable future. I welcome the focus of the EU Just Transition Fund Programme on the youth of the Midlands, and that the Region’s youth contributed actively in the public consultation on the Territorial Plan. As a Minister in rural Galway, it’s important to see initiatives supporting carbon neutral local transport infrastructure, which are accessible to all. This will help deliver sustainable employment and access to innovation/remote working hubs and training and education opportunities, making it a more attractive place to live, work and visit.”
Focus on Bioeconomy and Farming
Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, with special responsibility for Land Use and Biodiversity, Pippa Hackett said:
“As someone who lives in the Midlands I’m delighted to see this significant investment for the region from the EU Just Transition Fund. I’m particularly pleased with the two flagship initiatives from my Department. The €35 million in funding I am announcing today, for the Midlands Carbon Catchment Study and for Bioeconomy Demonstration Initiatives will develop projects which will engage farmers and landowners to develop products, services and jobs that will be support a sustainable, climate neutral economy right here in the Midlands. I encourage all farmers, local community groups, research performing organisations and enterprises to actively engage and collaborate together in these two opportunities so that collectively, we can realise the potential of this region.”
Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage Malcolm Noonan said:
“Retaining the cultural and natural heritage of the region’s peatlands is an important element of achieving a just transition for the Midlands. With support from the Just Transition Fund, degraded fens and bogs will be rejuvenated by the National Parks and Wildlife Service. This is urgently needed to support climate action and also to create biodiverse habitats.”
Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs with special responsibility for International Development and Diaspora Seán Fleming said:
“I welcome the launch of this innovative Programme, particularly the focus on community development. Funding of €29 million to support the implementation of bottom-up local and regional initiatives in the Midlands can deliver transformative projects, aligned with Local Economic and Community Plans and Regional Enterprise Plan priorities, offering a bright, sustainable future in the Region.”
Working towards a greener more sustainable future
Jim Conway, Director of the Eastern and Midland Regional Assembly (EMRA), said:
“Through a targeted programme, working with key stakeholders, this valuable EU and Government funding will deliver on the climate, economic and placemaking objectives of the Eastern and Midland Regional Assembly, aimed at addressing the impacts of the transition from fossil fuels to greener, more sustainable alternatives. Achieving these objectives will in turn have positive outcomes for those most impacted by the transition in terms of employment opportunities and enhancing the environment in which they live. Working with the Monitoring Committee, EMRA will ensure the effective management of the programme.”
Sofia Alves, Director of DG REGIO, said:
“The Just Transition Fund is a key driver of the European Green Deal, which pushes the green transition towards more inclusive and innovative accomplishments. We are moving away from peat and other fossil fuels in the Midlands because people once dependent on them deserve a reshaped future with new prospects. A total of €169 million will kick-start this process through local initiatives.”
Ireland’s Territorial Just Transition Plan and Programme was approved by Cabinet and the European Commission late in 2022 and sets out Ireland’s investment strategy for €169 million of funding, of which €84.5 million is financed by the EU.
The Programme will be managed by the Eastern and Midland Regional Assembly (EMRA), and will focus on three strategic priorities:
- Generating employment in former peat communities by investing in the diversification of the local economy
- Supporting the restoration and rehabilitation of degraded peatlands and the regeneration and repurposing of industrial heritage assets
- Providing former peat communities with smart and sustainable mobility options to enable them to benefit directly from the green transition