Bord na Mona workers 'cannot be abandoned' in move to low-carbon future, Dublin climate summit hears

WORKERS in traditionally-polluting industries such as turf production cannot be “abandoned” in the transition to a low-carbon future.

European Commission vice-president for energy union, Maroš Šefčovič, told the Climate Innovation Summit in Dublin Castle that a “new economic future” was needed for the midlands and other parts of the EU reliant on mining and industries incompatible with tackling climate change.

And he said the move to a world with zero emissions would require societal change.

“The biggest challenge will be to overcome the silo mentality,” he said.

“When we are talking about climate change, we have to go beyond power generation and heavy industry. We have to talk about buildings, transport, agriculture, public procurement and climate financing.”

Last month, Bord na Móna last month announced plans to move away from turf production by 2025 – five years earlier than previously stated – which will result in the loss of 430 jobs across the Midlands. 

Mr Šefčovič said people in vulnerable industries including peat production, mining and heavy industry could not be left behind.

“How do you make this very challenging transition fair? We cannot just abandon the people who have worked in the mines or peat-fields in Ireland or traditional heavy-energy use industries. We cannot say we are moving to a new stage and we don’t care. That’s the wrong approach and it will slow us down. 

“We (European Commission) are working with all regions which feel they have to build a new economic future. We work with local leaders to develop a set of projects, and then we look for the financing for these projects.

“We will have to enlarge this beyond the coal region and move to all regions which face anxiety in jumping on the train of sustainable economics.”

He also said a report published last month by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that emissions would have to dramatically fall between now and 2030 if there was to be any chance of keeping average global temperature rises to no more than 1.5C.

“It was not a surprise,” he said. “We, as a global human community, are not doing enough. We needed scientists to put it in very stark terms. We have to do a lot. It’s not just a simple change, we’re talking about a paradigm shift which is probably the biggest change for mankind in a century.”

Annual investment of €180bn was needed, most of which would come from private finance. Around 75pc of the total funding will be required for investment in retrofitting domestic, retail, commercial and industrial plant and buildings; 20pc on transport and the remainder on renewable energy.

“These are not costs,” he added. “They are investments into our future, into the health of our citizens. It’s important to use the advantage Europe has in being first movers in this respect. Europe has shown it can grow and cut emissions at the same time.

“The cost of renewables is coming down. This is a very compelling business case. It’s a sound investment.

“We need a mission to the moon approach. The mission for us Europeans should be to preserve Earth. It’s a mission where Europeans can excel.”

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