Opinion: Ireland has joined BOGA – what’s next?

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Last month, we as Not Here Not Anywhere (NHNA) members attended COP for the first time. It was a mixed experience. Activists were shut out of negotiations and even the venue.

The Global North failed yet again to commit to sufficient loss and damage financing for nations already suffering the worst effects of climate change. We quickly became aware that the people treating this like a real climate emergency were the ones on the streets, led largely by indigenous peoples and youth activists.

Two bright spots at COP however related to fossil fuel phase-out. First, the historic inclusion of text calling for “the phase-down of unabated coal power and of inefficient subsidies for fossil fuels”.

Second, the conference saw the launch of  the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance (BOGA), with Ireland becoming a core member among twelve signatory countries. BOGA is an international coalition of states, governments and stakeholders, a collaborative effort to phase out the production of oil and gas.

With all the hype around BOGA, however, what is certain is that the public will play a vital role in helping to keep the pressure on to ensure that Ireland lives up to the goals and ideals of the Alliance.

NHNA campaigns for a fossil free future, including stopping the development of new fossil fuel infrastructure – such as Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminals – in Ireland (and anywhere). In joining BOGA, Ireland pledged its commitmentto end new concessions, licensing or leasing rounds for oil and gas production and exploration and to set a Paris-aligned date for ending oil and gas production and exploration on the territory over which they have jurisdiction.

But can BOGA deliver a fossil free future or is it just window-dressing? While the news of Ireland joining BOGA is a positive development, it does not legally bind governments to take action; it must be backed up by domestic policy. 

So, what does the government need to do?

First, promises must be made reality. The government must legislate to ban the development of LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) infrastructure in Ireland. The 2020 Programme for Government affirmed “we do not believe that it makes sense to develop LNG gas import terminals importing fracked gas”.

These negotiations led to the government issuing a policy statement against fracked gas imports in May 2021. However, Ministers continue to refer to the ongoing energy security review to excuse the lack of related legislation.

Consequently, the window is still open for planning applications for LNG in Ireland, such as Shannon LNG’s recent application for a €650 million LNG gas plant and power station in Ballylongford, Co. Kerry. The plant is set to be one of the largest LNG terminals in Europe and open until 2050.

The development of LNG onshore terminals or Floating Storage Regasification Units (FSRU) risks locking Ireland into fossil fuels for the next thirty years and consequently delaying the energy transition urgently required to meet our climate targets under the Paris Agreement. The government must put the BOGA commitments into action by legislating to ban LNG.

In committing to the phasing out of oil and gas, the State cannot overlook the rapid growth of data centres in Ireland and their significant energy demands. Latest calculations by Eirgrid predict that data centres could account for up to 27% of Ireland’s electricity demand by 2028, and up to 50% of new electricity demand growth.

We must immediately press pause on data centres until a cap can be set based on climate targets and they can be run entirely on renewables – employing either on-site direct renewable power source generation or off-site renewable power source with dedicated grid connection. Further, data centres should not be able to buy their way into renewable energy consumption through Purchase Power Agreements or Renewable Energy Certificates.

Additionally, the government must provide sufficient support for the public in the transition away from fossil fuels, in line with their responsibility under BOGA to support a “socially just and equitable global transition” in the phasing out of oil and gas

Action is required from both a top-down and bottom-up perspective to ensure we leverage Ireland’s membership of BOGA so that it delivers on the goals it sets out.

Use your power as a voter: write to your TDs to express opposition to new gas and oil infrastructure and support for a legislative ban on LNG import terminals and a moratorium on data centres. Many of NHNA’s campaigns come equipped with email templates and step-by-step instructions to empower the public to make their own submissions in support of a fossil-free future, for example, our submission guidelines, our Press Pause campaign and the Fossil Free Communities campaign.

The BOGA declaration states that delivering on the Paris Agreement requires “a dramatic shift” in the way that we provide and use energy”. It also points out that “to be consistent with a 1.5°C pathway, global oil and natural (fossil) gas production would need to fall by 4% and 3% respectively each year to 2030, and faster thereafter.” 

Don’t lose sight of this when you hear about any new planned oil or gas infrastructure, or huge energy-guzzling data centres. Be attentive to the words of António Guterres, UN secretary general, at the conclusion of COP26: “Our fragile planet is hanging by a thread. We are still knocking on the door of climate catastrophe.”

Míde Power, Angela Deegan, Róisín Greaney and Dylan Murphy are members of Not Here Not Anywhere (NHNA)

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