Cabinet slammed for blocking Bill on fossil fuel exploration licences

Published by Niall Sargent on

July 4th, 2019

Deputy Bríd Smith has slammed the Government’s “utter hypocrisy” on climate action after it emerged today that it will not issue a money message to progress her stalled Bill to halt new licences for fossil fuel exploration.

The Bill, which the Dáil has twice voted to progress to Third Stage, would end the issuing of new licences to explore for oil and gas in Irish waters.

Following a cabinet meeting this morning, Ms Smith received a letter from the Government indicating that the Bill is “not reasoned, prudent or appropriate”.

As a result, the letter states, the Minister for Climate Action Richard Bruton TD is “unable to recommend to Government that it issues a money message” for the Bill.

A money message is a State recommendation signed by the Taoiseach approving of legislation that will cost the State money. Unless approval is received, a Bill cannot progress to Committee Stage.

The letter states the Government’s opinion that the Bill will not reduce Ireland’s emissions and will instead “ensure that Ireland must import all its fossil fuels” in the transition to a low carbon society.

The letter says that the Government’s new climate action plan will deliver on targets – including 70 per cent renewable electricity by 2030 – that Ms Smith’s Bill would make “no contribution to delivering”.

Brid Smith speaking at climate vigil for her Bill Photo: Kalye Crosson
Brid Smith speaking at outside the Dail Photo: Kalye Crosson

Ms Smith said that the decision shows “the utter hypocrisy” of the Government on climate, adding that the move will render the measures in the new climate plan “null and void”.

“Nothing else this government announces on climate can be taking seriously if they continue to support looking for more reserves of fossil fuels,” she said.

“If we can’t stop new exploration for fossil fuels while knowing that 80 per cent of existing reserves need to stay in the ground then we will never limit climate change to 1.5 degrees.

The Government decision comes two days after a new paper in Nature concluded that to meet the Paris Agreement Goal of limiting global warming to 1.5C there can be no more investment in fossil fuel infrastructure.

Oisín Coghlan (l) of the Pillar & Ciara Barry of Not Here, Not Anywhere Photo: Niall Sargent

‘Climate Vandal’

Friends of the Earth described the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar as a “climate vandal” and a “hitman for the fossil fuel industry” closer to the likes of Trump and Bolsanaro after the Cabinet decision today.

The environmental group’s director Oisín Coghlan said that the only victor from today’s decision is the fossil fuel industry that “pours hundreds of millions of euro into lobbying to keep their profits flowing”.

“It’s paid off here,” Mr Coghlan said, as Mr Varadkar and his Government “chose to cling to the past and forsake our common future”.

“The Taoiseach, who admitted Ireland was a climate, had the chance to join the ranks of the climate vanguard today. Instead, he chose to join the climate vandals,” Mr Coghlan added.

“We know that oil and gas companies have been lobbying hard to kill this Bill, and today Leo Varadkar acted as their hitman, putting a bullet in the head of a Bill that would have broken the fossil fuel industry’s stranglehold on policy and power,” Mr Coghlan stressed.

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Niall Sargent

Niall is the Editor of The Green News. He is a multimedia journalist, with an MA in Investigative Journalism from City University, London