This week world leaders are in Poland discussing climate policy at the COP 24 talks, The issue of climate change is something all politicians need to take seriously as the latest UN IPCC report on climate change shows that effectively dealing with climate change is now a matter of urgency.
Unfortunately many governments have not shown a willingness to effectively deal with theses challenges in a way which protects ordinary people, planned fuel taxes in France provoked protests from ordinary people who cannot afford to pay any more while leaving the richest and the companies responsible for the majority of emissions off the hook. This attempt to make the working class foot the bill for climate change was the catalyst behind the Gilet Jaunes(Yellow Vest) protests
In Ireland Bord na Mona has recently announced job losses as a result of the state company’s decarbonisation process. The announcement of 430 job losses in the Midlands as part of the decarbonisation is a serious blow to the communities and comes mere months after 124 jobs were lost when Bord na Mona closed the peat briquette factory in Littleton in Tipperary. The ongoing decarbonisation of Bord na Mona and the development of renewable enterprises as part of the plan to end of peat burning for electricity by 2030 requires significant restructuring.
The announcement of job cuts as the first stage of this restructuring has been condemned by trade unions representing Bord na Mona workers and local politicians. The scale of job losses has raised concerns over the impact these losses will have on the wider community.
While Bord na Mona claims that the development of renewable alternatives could provide new jobs later on in the decarbonisation process these jobs will not replace those lost for a number of years, nor is their a plan in place to ensure that staff being made redundant due to decarbonisation will be kept on in these new roles.
Widespread job losses while being presented as a necessary part of decarbonisation reflect a narrow development plan designed without adequate consultations between Bord na Mona, the unions, and local communities. At the Littleton plant Bord na Mona announced job losses without sufficient structure to provide for the workers made redundant being put in place
The further job losses which will start early next year highlights the need for a ‘Just Transition’ which provides for workers and communities at every stage of the decarbonisation process. Decarbonisation is an exclusively rural challenge as the major polluting industries in Ireland such as peat extraction are rural in nature
Trade unions representing coal mine workers in Spain have recently secured a just transition deal which prioritises sustainable development for mining regions in a 250 million euro deal which will see the closure of mines across Spain. The deal has been welcomed by trade unions as an example of how to manage the transition away from fossil fuels in a way which does not damage workers and communities, with early retirement and generous redundancies but most importantly concrete commitments to creating new employment opportunities in the communities affected and given preference to those made redundant for these new jobs.
A similar deal to the Spanish model would meet needs of Bord na Mona, the workers whose jobs will be lost and the wider communities. Workers and communities can not be decimated in the name of climate policy when the very reason we need to tackle climate change is to protect communities from the worst impacts of climate change.
While policies to address climate change become increasingly important, the need for a just transition becomes more pressing to ensure that decarbonisation provides a positive impact for both the environment and the communities most affected by job losses