Macdara Doyle Campaigns Officer ICTU
On behalf of Congress I want to thank the Committee for the opportunity to participate in this very inclusive consultation process and contribute to a debate that has quite profound implications for how we will live and work, many years into the future. I am joined by my colleague David Joyce and we would be happy to respond to any questions that may arise on foot of this.
No one who has watched or participated in these hearings can be under any illusion as to the magnitude of the challenge we face, or the sheer scale of the transformative change under discussion.
There is nobody at work today who will remain untouched by this. Equally, the range of opportunities and quality of jobs available to future generations will be largely determined by decisions that are made now.
Therefore, it is imperative that the overall transition and decarbonisation process is underpinned by engagement and inclusive dialogue - especially with those workers and communities positioned at the frontline of this change.
But as the workers of Bord na Móna and the communities of the Midlands will readily testify, our record thus far is quite poor.
The obvious danger is that the very idea of transition becomes synonymous with job loss and lower living standards and makes it almost impossible to deliver.
To be clear, job losses and lower living standards are not the inevitable outcome of the transition process but result from bad planning and poor policy.
Specifically, we see a serious disconnect between official declarations and policy implementation.
Successive governments have repeatedly embraced the principle of Just Transition: from the 2015 Paris Agreement to the seminal 2019 NESC report and the progressive commitments contained in the COP 26 Just Transition Declaration.
But these have yet to become reality and we urgently need policymakers to adopt the language and the substance of Just Transition.
Congress welcomed the commitment in the Climate Action Plan on the creation of a national Just Transition Commission (JTC), which we have advocated for several years.
However, the recently-published annexes to the plan reveal that the Commission is unlikely to be operational until sometime in 2023. This delay is untenable.
We, therefore, request that the Committee acts to ensure that this crucial component of the transition process is prioritised and an effective vehicle for structured social dialogue - at national and sectoral level - is established without delay.
The comprehensive guidelines from the ILO provide a clear blueprint for this.1
The urgency of this task was underscored by the Climate Change Advisory Council (CCAC), in their October 25 letter to the Minister.2
This characterised “early and effective engagement with workers, local communities, business, and social partners” as an essential step in the transition process.
The carbon budgets set out by the Council provide clear targets and a timeframe in which to reach the goal of net-zero by 2050.
We know where we have to go and how far we have to travel.
But without a vehicle for structured social dialogue, we have no roadmap on how to get there.
The next significant step in this process involves the agreement of sectoral emission ceilings, across the economy. As the CCAC has outlined, this has major implications for employment.
Some of this we can predict. Jobs will be created in renewables, but are likely to be lost in transport and related services.
But what we do not know is the number and type of jobs that will be affected, nor whether jobs lost will be replaced by high-quality employment.
But we have an opportunity to address this now and bring coherence, foresight, and proactive planning to the process.
To that end, Congress is calling for a new, mandatory requirement that each sectoral emission ceiling be accompanied by a comprehensive Employment Impact Report.
Based on agreed metrics and standards, such a report would have two key components: firstly, a full break down of the likely jobs impact - positive and negative - of the proposed emission ceiling in each sector; secondly, the concrete measures and plans required to either maximise job creation opportunities or minimise possible job losses.
The process would be organised under the auspices of the Just Transition Commission with the Impact Report providing the basis for full engagement at sectoral level, across the economy.
It is only through dialogue and early engagement that we can hope to restore confidence and build trust in the transition process. Unveiling a comprehensive plan after the event will not suffice.