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Modelling the Zero-Carbon Transition: International Approaches and Lessons for Ireland

The Government’s Climate Action Plan and Future Jobs Ireland 2019 included a request for NESC’s advice on how to manage the transition associated with climate change and digital automation. Specifically, how to minimise the impact on any vulnerable workers and sectors, and how to seize opportunities. Government policy is intended to lead the low-carbon transition, by incentivising the innovation, diffusion and adoption of primarily energy-related low-carbon technologies. The zero-carbon transition is a form of socio-economic transition, involving major changes over decadal timescales in buildings, energy and transport systems. The principle of a just transition means no groups are left behind.

A key question for policy-makers then is ‘which sectors and workers are vulnerable in transitions?’. The problem of identifying the most vulnerable groups and sectors in the economy during a low-carbon or digital transition is complex. Quantitative models of the economy and energy system are often applied to determine appropriate responses to climate change in the energy sector, assess the impact of policy proposals on the economy and identify vulnerable groups during transitions. Several different theories and perspectives should be used to approach the problem. Such insights are crucial to a just transition, and international approaches and lessons for Ireland are explored here.

This research paper was an input to, and should be read in conjunction with, Council Report no 149: Addressing Employment Vulnerability as Part of a Just Transition in Ireland.


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