Dail passes Bill to stop State issuing licences for fossil fuel exploration

Published by Ja Wei Lee on

February 8th, 2018

The Dail has passed a Bill to stop the State from issuing any new licences for the exploration and extraction of fossil fuels in Ireland.

The Climate Emergency Measures Bill passed Second Stage this afternoon with 78 TDs voting in favour and 48 against.

The Bill now moves forward to Committee Stage with the support of all opposition parties where it will be scrutinised by the Joint Committee on Climate Action.

The Bill seeks to stop the government from issuing any new licences for the exploration and extraction of fossil fuels in the State, both onshore and offshore.

There are currently over 40 licences granted for a range of fossil fuel, some of which have contracts up to the late 2020s.

The Bill was discussed at Second Stage yesterday evening, however, a full vote was called today due to opposition from the Government.

Speaking before the Dail yesterday evening, the Minister of State with responsibility for Natural Resources, Sean Kyne, TD said that the Government “must oppose the Bill today”.

People Before Profit (PBP) Deputy Brid Smith, who introduced the Bill last November, said yesterday that the Bill is fully in line with existing Government policy and called for the cabinet to “get their priorities in place”.

She added: “If we take the Paris Climate Agreement seriously the Oireachtas will support this Bill. If we take the National Transition Objective seriously, we will support this Bill. If we take the National Mitigation Plan seriously, we will support this Bill.”

She called on the Government to be a world leader on this issue and join Costa Rica and France in banning the exploration of fossil fuels.

Last December, France passed a law which will permanently ban the exploration and extraction of fossil fuels nationwide by 2040. In 2014, Costa Rica extended a moratorium on all petroleum exploration and extraction until at least 2021.

“Stopping new exploration is the very first step needed considering that 80 per cent of proved reserves need to be left in the ground if we are to have any hope of keeping temperature rises to under 2 degrees,” Ms Smith added.

Under the Paris Climate Agreement, Ireland has committed to holding the increase in the global temperature increase to well below 2C above pre-industrial levels.

Support from opposition parties

The Bill is supported by various independent TDs and opposition parties, including Fianna Fail, as confirmed by Deputy Timmy Dooley in a social media post earlier this week. Mr Dooley told the Dail yesterday evening that the Bill is needed to address the “climate change crisis unfolding across the world”.

He warned that the burden on societies around the world will be “unprecedented” without action from all nations, adding that we would be committing “moral negligence” if we continue with business as usual.

Speaking following the vote, Green Party Leader Eamon Ryan TD said: “This truly is a historic day for environmentalism in Ireland. The tide has turned on fossil fuels, and there is widespread political support now for a just transition to renewable power.

“If we are to keep global temperature rises below 1.5-2 degrees, avoiding climate chaos, then 80 per cent of known fossil fuel reserves need to be left in the ground. By signing the Paris Agreement, Ireland committed to such a plan.”

NGO Reaction

The Bill is supported by numerous NGOs such as Trocaire, Not Here Not Anywhere and Friends of the Earth Ireland.

Prior to the vote Stop Climate Chaos (SCC), a coalition of aid agencies and environmental, youth and faith groups, called on the Government to join the cross-party consensus to support the Bill.

SCC argue that any continued exploration and extraction of fossil fuels runs the risk of the state “locking in” for the burning of fossil fuels when the state is already failing in its climate change commitments.

Protesters from Stop Climate Chaos Coalition outside Dublin yesterday afternoon Photo: PHOTOCALL IRELAND

Jerry MacEvilly, SCC Policy Coordinator, said that the coalition’s research shows that Ireland’s energy security does not depend on Irish gas and oil exploration.

According to the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, 85 per cent of Irish energy is imported in 2016, with 91 per cent of this coming from fossil fuels.

“To increase our energy security we are far better off investing in local renewables and warmer homes that use less fuel,” Mr MacEvilly said.

Oisin Coghlan, Director of Friends of the Earth, added that we have a chance to take another step towards climate leadership and follow the decision to ban fracking last year.

“We know the Taoiseach would like to seen as the Irish Macron. Well France has already taken this step. Today Leo has a choice, back the Bill or get left behind,” he added.

Leo Varadkar at Transport for Growth: Developing Connectivity at the 2012 Summit in Leipzig, Germany on 3 May 2012 Photo:

Leo Varadkar at Transport for Growth: Developing Connectivity at the 2012 Summit in Leipzig, Germany on 3 May 2012 Photo: International Transport Forum

Taoiseach’s words must lead to action

Speaking in the European Parliament last month, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar acknowledged that Ireland is falling behind the rest of Europe on tackling climate change and gave his commitment to taking greater action.

“As far as I am concerned, we are a laggard. I am not proud of Ireland’s performance on climate change,” he said. “There are lots of things that we intend to do so that we can meet those [emissions] targets. And it’s something that I am very committed to, and certainly, my generation of politicians is very committed to.”

While welcoming such statements, An Taisce’s Climate Change spokesperson John Gibbons said that the Taoiseach’s words mean nothing without action.

“It is tangible actions that matter, not words,” he said. “Is the Taoiseach genuinely committed to climate leadership, or will he – like his predecessors – refuse at the very first hurdle?”

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Ja Wei Lee

Ja Wei is a third-year journalism student from DIT. He is passionate about writing, exploring new ideas and has a keen interest in social issues