Ireland set to become first country to fully divest from fossil fuels

July 12th, 2018

The Dail has passed a historic Bill which aims to make Ireland the first country in the world to fully divest from fossil fuels.

Earlier this afternoon, TDs voted to pass the Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill to ban the state investment vehicle, the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF), from any future investment in fossil fuels.

The Bill, introduced by independent Donegal Deputy Thomas Pringle, will also compel the ISIF to divest its current assets over a period of five years. The ISIF currently has over 300 million invested both directly and indirectly in fossil fuel companies globally.

The Bill has been amended following negotiations with the Department of Finance to allow for some flexibility so that the State does not lose money through the process of divestment itself.

Mr Pringle told The Green News that the passage of the Bill is a “testament to cross-party cooperation and support” on the issue of climate change and also a “victory” for the international fossil fuel divestment movement. The Bill was “greatly” needed to enhance Ireland’s international reputation in tackling climate change, Mr Pringle added.

The Bill will now proceed to the Seanad, with Mr Pringle “hopeful” that the Bill will be heard soon after the Oireachtas returns from its summer recess in September.

While we are a small nation, we have a huge impact on the most vulnerable citizens in the world. It’s morally imperative that we urgently respond to climate change as it’s those most vulnerable who cannot afford to wait for us to act accordingly,” Mr Pringle said.

A recent report ranks Ireland as the second worst European country for climate action. The report from Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe gave Ireland a score of 21 per cent on fighting climate change, making it one of only three EU countries to score below 30 per cent.

The Executive Director of Trocaire, Eamonn Meehan, echoed the deputy’s sentiments, hailing the Bill as “vital” in the fight for climate justice. The Bill will stop an industry that is “driving” the crisis, he added.

Extended droughts, floods and storms have already contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, with millions more facing hunger and in need of urgent aid just to survive. Today the Oireachtas has made a powerful statement.

“It has responded to the public’s call for leadership on this issue and sent a powerful signal to the international community about the need to speed up the phase-out of fossil fuels if global climate goals are to be delivered,” said Mr Meehan.

Proud, historic and happy day

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said that today as “a proud, historic and happy day” as it signals that the fossil fuel era is “coming to an end”.

The environmental movement must capitalize on this progress, and demand greater climate action from all Government departments now. Let’s use this momentum to push for even more progress,” Mr Ryan added.

People Before Profit Deputy Brid Smith “warmly” welcomed the Bill. It sends a message to fossil fuels lobbies to “not take a single drop of fossil fuels offshore,” she said.

Sinn Fein Deputy Brian Stanley said that while Ireland has been “negligent” on the issue of moving away from fossil fuels, it will now have to move to a new energy make-up driven by renewables which will create lots of jobs.

However, Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice voiced his concerns with the Bill, claiming that “we need to believe in a real world”, adding that Ireland “needs to be mindful that the price of electricity remains affordable”.

International Movement

It is estimated that almost 900 institutions has pledged to divest from fossil fuel investments, including the British Medical Association, the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund and the Mary Robinson Foundation.

Faith-based groups, including the Church of Ireland, have been very active in the movement, making up around 30 per cent of the total number of institutions to divest to date.

Educational institutions make up a further 16 per cent, with Trinity College Dublin (TCD) becoming the first Irish university to officially commit to divestment in December 2016. NUI Galway and Queen’s University Belfast soon followed suit.

Successful campaigns have been run by students across the globe, including the University of Oxford, the University of Glasgow, Boston University, the Australian National University, and much more.


About the Author

Charline Fernandez

Charline is French and an MA journalism student at DCU. She has an interest in the environment, animals rights and rock music.

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