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Taoiseach urged to establish Just Transition Taskforce as he addresses forum on 'Decent Work'

30 Jul 2019

Taoiseach to address forum today on "Decent Work" - Sustainable Development Goal 8

Friends of the Earth and school strikers Fridays For Future send Leo a joint letter

Friends of the Earth has urged An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to use the occasion today of his address on Sustainable Development Goal 8 on “Decent Work and Economic Growth” at the Stakeholder Forum on the Sustainable Development Goals in Dublin Castle to announce the immediate establishment of a Just Transition Taskforce to address the issues faced by the workers and communities in Clare and the Midlands, where workers at coal-fired and peat-fired power stations are facing layoffs and redundancies.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions adopted a resolution earlier this month calling for a Just Transition Commission that ensures all relevant voices are heard and included, and puts social dialogue and collective bargaining at the centre of the transition away from fossil fuels. The landmark all-party Oireachtas report in March recommended a Just Transition Taskforce with an independent Chairperson to bring Government, the unions, the ESB, Bord Na Móna and all the stakeholders around the same table.

This month alone ESB has announced plans to lay off over half the workforce in Moneypoint, the Lough Ree peat station has been closed by the EPA and An Bord Pleanála has refused permission to extend the life of the West Offaly peat station beyond 2020. But far the Government has failed to implement the recommendation of the Oireachtas Committee, which was chaired by Fine Gael TD Hildegarde Naughton and includes Fine Gael TD for Offaly, Marcella Corcoran Kennedy. Instead the Government has referred the issue to a study group in NESC and to Offaly County Council's Regional Transition Team, which doesn't even include representatives from the Trade Unions.

Commenting Oisin Coghlan, Director of Friends of the Earth, said:

“The Government’s failure to set up a Just Transition Taskforce is baffling. Unions, environmentalists and local communities are all calling for it. I urged then Minister Naughten to do it a year ago this month in a live TV debate. All political parties, including Fine Gael, signed up to recommend it a couple of months ago. And we the people own the ESB and Bord Na Mona, the companies that need to come to the table. And still the Government is refusing to act, leaving the Taskforce out of its recent climate plan.

“I can only conclude the Government lacks the courage to take responsibility for what is happening to the workers and communities around the coal and peat-fired power plants. Instead of sitting down will stakeholders to hammer out a plan, the Government is letting layoffs and redundancies occur due to decisions by the EPA, An Bord Pleanála, and the ESB in the face of a rising carbon price for burning coal.

“The Government’s refusal to sit down and 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, with all the disruption and dislocation that means for workers and their communities in the Clare and the midlands.

"The impact of the Government's failure to plan for the wind down of the coal and peat stations goes beyond the workers and communities immediately affected. It undermines public trust in the rest of the Government's climate action plan. 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.
Friends of the Earth has written a joint letter with the school climate strikes group, Fridays For Future, to Leo Varadkar about the Government's failure to engage in meaningful dialogue about Just Transition and more broadly on climate action issues.

ENDS

Notes:

1) The Fourth National Stakeholder Forum on the SDGs takes place in Dublin Castle today Tuesday 30th July from 9.45am to 5pm, on the theme of SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth. The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar TD will give the keynote address at 10.15am. For more information see here: https://www.dccae.gov.ie/en-ie/environment/topics/sustainable-development/sustainable-development-goals/stakeholder-forum--/2019-forums/Pages/July-Forum.aspx

2) The joint letter from Friends of the Earth and Fridays for Future on the growing gap between the Government's rhetoric on climate dialogue and the actual practice in the cases of Just Transition, the National Dialogue, Intergenerational Dialogue and the Climate Energency Bill, can be downloaded here.

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