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No jobs on a dead planet

4 December 2018

Statement by Sean Sherlock TD
Spokesperson on Justice, Children and Youth Affairs

Climate Action Committee Member Seán Sherlock TD has called on the Government to engage with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions on the essential need for a Just Transition to tackle climate change impacts on workers.

“I welcome Congress giving evidence this evening to the Climate Action committee on the vital area of the Just Transition,” said Deputy Sherlock.

“We are beginning to embark on a rapid transition to a low carbon future, but we have only a decade or two to replace fossil fuels with renewables.  That means big changes to infrastructure and it means that many people will soon be doing different jobs. Just Transition is about allying those fears by involving those most directly affected. In Ireland, energy, transport and agriculture all need to undergo rapid transformative change. Hauliers, peat production workers, builders, mechanics and farmers will all be impacted. The sooner we start to plan for their wellbeing in this transition, the less social and economic disruption we will face.  The whole point of planning for a Just Transition is that it is not just about climate change, it is about people having decent, sustainable livelihoods.”

“The Just Transition cannot be left to the free market. Following the free market means we keep increasing agricultural emissions rather than reducing them, so it follows that the free market will not build a Just Transition to a sustainable future. The free market will also not take care of the workers and their communities who will be left behind when unplanned employment hits. We must manage the transition by direct intervention in the market to deliver opportunities rather than destitution.”

“Just Transition is not about enhanced unemployment although robust social protection is important, including decent healthcare, access to education and pensions. Opportunities have to be created in the same areas where jobs are lost. Reskilling and upskilling is needed. If we don’t act on climate change quickly, we will have much bigger worries than what it costs to retrain workers.” 

“To begin the process here, we need a social dialogue between workers and their unions, employers, communities, government, NGOS and civil society groups. We have to figure out together where investment is most needed and how it can be most effectively targeted. In October, ICTU called for a Just Transition Forum.  We must respond urgently to this call by establishing a Just Transition task force in which we plan the detail of delivering security and opportunity for workers as we embark together on the biggest and fastest transition that the world has ever faced.”