Jennifer Whitmore on the Just Transition Bill


17 September 2021

It’s a big week – we’re back from a short stint of a holiday, the Dáil is back from its summer recess and Social Democrats TD Jennifer Whitmore has tabled a Just Transition Bill.

What exactly is the Bill, what’s its origin story and what does Deputy Whitmore think lays ahead for it?

We called her up to find out.

What does a Just Transition mean to you?

I think it’s
something that goes beyond being just worker-based. I think there’s a much
broader and inclusive definition and usage of the word that brings in
communities, elderly people and people in rural areas. It’s really making sure
that anyone who has to make any big adjustments to meet our climate targets are
supported in doing so.

It’s also
making sure the measures we put in place are fair by being more balanced
towards communities and community interests rather than corporate ones.

Right – and is there any difference between this
Just Transition Bill that you proposed and the one that Green Party had brought
forward in the past?

Well, I
updated it to include a definition of Just Transition and its principles that
had been recommended as part of the climate committee process which the
Minister declined to include in the Climate Bill. These principles are ones
that the Scottish government have used in their legislation.

At the time the Government here said it wasn’t practical to include Just Transition principles [in the Bill], but in actual fact Scotland have done it.

The timeframe
originally for the Commission of five years has also been extended to ten years
because half a decade is a very short timeframe when we’re talking about this transition.

And why are you bringing forward now?

The reason
I actually started thinking about how we can incorporate Just Transition into
the work that was happening in Government at the moment is because it wasn’t
included in the Climate Bill. That was a really big concern to me.

There’s an
obvious need to have it included, and when the Government refused to do that I
thought “okay well what are my other options, how else can I raise this as
something that needs to happen?” and I thought: okay, I’ll see if I can do a
Bill on it.

I did some searching
and saw that there was a reasonably good Bill already from the Green Party that
dealt with the establishment of a Just Transition Commission and enabling that
Commission to do Transition plans.

When Eamon
Ryan had it at its second stage in the Dáil [in 2018], he said that his Bill
was a “critical piece of the architecture,” and I really couldn’t agree more
with him. We need to meet our agreed targets and it needs to be done fairly. We
need to have parallel processes where we’re working on Just Transition aspects and
building blocks alongside legislation around targets and the Climate Action

If we don’t
have that, I think it’s a real risk.

Do you think it’s going to pass?

I have to
bring it forward as a Private Members’ Bill and I would hope to work with the
Minister [Eamon Ryan] on it.

My sense is
that there was obviously Government hesitancy in including Just Transition in
the Climate Bill and I’m not sure where that was coming from.

The first
version of this [Climate] Bill that came to the Climate Action Committee didn’t
even mention the word “Just Transition”. When we spoke to officials, we were
told that climate justice was mentioned in it and that they were the same thing
– and we said, “no, it’s actually not.”

They put in
the actual term, but it’s really not robust enough. There is a reason that the
concept wasn’t really included, and I’m not sure where within Government that
is coming from but my sense is that that’s still there.

So, I’m not
sure whether I will get this Bill passed. I would hope I would. I would hope
they would recognize it and the thing is – there is a lot of talk. They will
reference Just Transition a lot, but we need to move past just referencing it.
We need to get it actually implemented.

We reached out to the Green Party for comment
on Deputy Whitmore’s newly tabled bill, but at the time of publication had not
yet received a response.

About the Author

Kayle Crosson

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