Climate transition must not be at expense of less well-off, EPA hears

Climate transition must not be at expense of less well-off, EPA hears

Marie Donnelly: 'People can understand that in order to achieve the target for 2025, we need to take action now.' File picture: Naoise Culhane

The transition to a greener society must not come at the expense of the least well-off, but some jobs will be lost and roles will become obsolete, the chair of the Climate Change Advisory Council has said.

Marie Donnelly told the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 2021 climate change conference that those implementing change have to be honest with the population regarding difficult decisions.

A stop-start approach to climate change will not suffice, she said. The five-year carbon emissions budgets will be crucial to focus minds, rather than just aiming to 2050, she added.

The carbon budgets announced in October last year will include all greenhouse gases in each five-year cycle and will allocate emissions ceilings to the likes of motorists, households, farmers, businesses, and industry.

"Our ultimate target is for 2050, and that is a long time away," said Ms Donnelly. "It's very hard to focus minds when you are talking about achieving something for 2050. People can understand that in order to achieve the target for 2025, we need to take action now."

One of the most important aspects of any carbon budget is to ensure there is "climate justice", she said.

"It must be achievable but in a fair and equitable way across our society. 

Part of the process moving forward is to ensure that those who are vulnerable, such as fuel-poor or other vulnerable groups, are not further marginalised by what we are doing in the climate space, but are supported and can become part of the solution, and not part of a problem out of the solution."

While new jobs would be created by the transition to a greener society, some jobs will be lost, she said.

"We do have to be conscious of the fact that there are some jobs that will be in jeopardy. There are some jobs that will change in their nature, the job will remain but the skills required will need to change. 

"Upskilling will become a real issue for some people. Car mechanics as we move into electric cars, for example, or plumbers as we roll out heat pumps. 

"There will be a cohort in our society where jobs will disappear. We really need to focus attention on this, and be honest with people, and make sure we have structures in place to inform people and to make sure we have the supports necessary to retrain, reskill, and find alternative employment."

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