Climate Action and Just Transition is a Once in a Lifetime opportunity to define our identity for decades ahead.
The window we have for climate action is short and daunting but, especially in the Midlands, it is also very exciting. It is an opportunity for us to define our identity for decades ahead, for the voices of those most often marginalised to be included and, through community renewable energy projects, to democratise ownership of energy. Thankfully, through the EU Just Transition Fund, we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to invest in our vision.
Time for planning projects which will be eligible for funding is now: These are projects which create jobs, upskill and train, enhance the Midlands as a place to live, work and visit and contribute to environmental sustainability including renewable energy.
There is a strong role for Local Authorities and the Eastern and Midland Regional Assembly to brief and support project proposers. I have written to them to ask that they start briefing communities, individuals and businesses on the draft programme as soon as possible. I am calling on communities to grasp the nettle, to plan for projects and to be courageous, there are many supports available to you, including your public representatives.
The Midlands is targeted for an investment of over €84.5m from an EU wide fund for all of those regions recognised as being worst affected by the move from fossil fuels.
The fund will likely open later this year, once the funding programme is approved by the EU, and runs up to 2027. There is an element of the funding which is front loaded, the New Generation EU fund, meaning that it needs to be spent sooner than 2027 but I have received clarification from Minister Ryan’s team that Member States have up to three years from the year of commitment to spend and reclaim the EU JTF allocation. While this is considerably longer than some reports I have heard, it is still a tight timeframe and we need our ducks in a row. The benefit will only be as strong as the projects proposed.
I'm so excited to see what projects community and private proposers will come up with. If the recent National Just Transition project ideas are anything to go by, the next EU Just Transition funded projects will bring jobs, vibrancy and a more socially inclusive society and I am very excited to play a small part in supporting this. I will continue to work with my Government colleagues to do just that.
Watch my Seanad speech here: