Launch of the Green Party's Keep It in The Ground Bill Photo: James Orr

Calls grow for an Irish-led global ban on fracking

25 May 2021

Demand is continuing to build for an Irish-led global ban on fracking in the wake of a report from the Irish Centre for Human Rights (ICHR).

The International Human Rights Impacts of Fracking published yesterday analysed the threats hydraulic fracking poses to the environment, to local populations and to human rights obligations.

According to the ICHR document, unconventional oil and gas exploration impacts several rights, including the right to life, health, water, food, housing, access to information and the right to a safe, clean and healthy environment.

These violations disproportionately impact individuals and communities from marginalised backgrounds such as children living in poverty, the authors Rowan Hickie and Bridget Geoghegan conclude.

The report by the ICHR was prepared in collaboration with Safety Before LNG, Love Leitrim and Letterbreen and Mullaghdun Partnership (LAMP). 

Ireland is “uniquely positioned”

Given its own domestic and international developments, Ireland now finds itself “uniquely positioned to lead the effort as the global-north sponsor of the UN resolution calling for a global ban on fracking,” according to report co-author Bridget Geoghegan.

Ireland banned the practice on its own soil in 2017 and has previously recognised the need for a ban on public health, environmental and climate grounds, report co-author Rowan Hickie added.  

The resolution to a global ban on fracking originated in 2019, as local activists who were directly impacted by the practice joined forces across the globe and sent an open letter with the ask to the United Nations Secretary-General.

In total, over 600 grassroot groups, organisations and scientists have signed it to date.

The mounting public pressure comes just a week after the Government published its much-anticipated Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) policy statement, which included a moratorium on the development of fracked gas importation, pending a completed energy security review.

The statement signals that Ireland is now one of a few countries the world over to have a ban on imported fracked gas, according to Johnny McElligot from Safety Before LNG.

“That’s an inspiration to other countries,” he told The Green News.  

Ireland is also in a prime position to put forward the ban due to its newly assumed role on the United Nations Security Council and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney’s assertion that “protecting the most vulnerable and safeguarding their human rights” must be at the heart of the global response to the climate crisis.

According to Eddie Mitchell, a farmer from Leitrim who is also involved in the anti-fracking campaign, the practice is morally unacceptable and allows for the creation of sacrifice zones across the globe.

“We don’t think that we’re safe [from fracking] until everyone is safe,” he said.

The problem with fracked gas

Fracked gas poses a number of problems to both the continually worsening climate crisis and the local environment that surround its production sites.

According to a report from Oil Change International, gas is not the bridge fuel it has frequently been portrayed as but rather is a “a bridge to climate disaster”.

During the process of gas extraction, methane leaks from out of the ground and into the atmosphere.

The gas is prone to leakage throughout the supply chain, and it is estimated that its warming effect is 84 to 87 times that of carbon dioxide over a 20-year period.

The practice can also lead to water contamination, air pollution, earthquakes and radioactive contamination.

Air pollution surrounding fracking infrastructure in the US was found to have high levels of toxic pollutants, including carcinogen benzene, which can cause severe environmental damage and risks to human health.

According to the report, certain communities are disproportionately impacted by the practice, including pregnant women, children, communities of colour, Indigenous populations, and communities living in poverty.

Story by Shauna Burdis