18 May 2021
The Government has issued its highly anticipated policy statement on Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) imports.
The statement notably includes a moratorium on the development of fracked gas importation, pending a completed energy security review.
The document comes weeks after the Government published its revised Climate Bill, which notably left out a Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action (JOCCA) recommendation to ban LNG importation through the legislation.
Depending on the outcome of an energy security review of Ireland’s electricity and natural gas systems, the statement sets out that it would not “be appropriate for the development of any LNG terminals in Ireland to be permitted or proceeded with.”
A legal ban on importing the fossil fuel however, “cannot be put in place at this time,” according to the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications.
“To do so would require changes to international rules, such as European energy laws,” the Department said.
Changes to such aforementioned European legislation could facilitate a ban, according to the Department’, and the Government says it is committed to pursuing that as part of upcoming revisions to the EU’s Gas Directive and Gas Regulation.
Minister for Climate Action Eamon Ryan said he remained “determined as ever to halt the damage caused by fracking” and that he will pursue opportunities at a European and international level to do so following the statement’s publication.
Fracked gas is extracted by injecting sand, pressurised water and various chemicals into shale rock. Numerous studies have linked it to health issues, earth tremours and large carbon and methane emissions.
The previous Irish government called it a “transition fuel”, however a 2019 report from Oil Change International referred to its production and use as a “bridge to climate disaster”.
A “welcome step” towards a permanent ban
Friends of the Earth Ireland welcomed the policy statement publication, and called it a “death knell” for LNG imports into Ireland.
Head of Policy at Friends of the Earth Jerry Mac Evilly said the move is a “welcome step towards a permanent ban on fracked gas imports”.
“We’re confident that an evidence based energy security review will find that Ireland does not need to import fracked gas to secure our energy supply and keep the lights on.
And it’s already crystal clear that we cannot afford to import fracked gas – or any highly polluting official fuels – on climate grounds,” Mr. Mac Evilly added.
Friends of the Earth also noted the Attorney General’s advice regarding legislation, but pointed to research from the Irish Centre for Human Rights that reached a different conclusion.
Under the supervision of Dr Maeve O’Rourke, researchers at the Human Rights Law Clinic found that prohibiting the importation or sale of fracked gas was in fact compatible with international trade rules.
People Before Profit were highly critical of the policy statement following its publication and said it was an “attempt to kick the can down the road”.
Deputy Brid Smith said that the statement itself was not enough and that “beyond telling us what the Minister opposes, it told us little about what the government intends to do in Ireland to ensure we stop LNG terminals and fracked gas imports.”