Eamon Ryan interview Photo: The Green Party

New drilling license shows Government’s ‘smoke and mirrors’ climate policy

May 28th, 2019

The Greens have said that the Government’s newfound desire for climate action is nothing but “smoke and mirrors” as a new license is issued for drilling off the Kerry coast.

Yesterday, the Department of Climate Action (DCCAE) granted consent to
CNOOC Petroleum Europe – a subsidiary of the Chinese National Offshore Oil Company – for an exploratory oil and gas well in the Porcupine Basin.

The proposed well falls within a 1,300 km2 area where CNOOC and ExxonMobil Exploration and Production Ireland (Offshore South) Ltd already have a frontier exploration licence that runs until February 2033.

The move came just hours before the political green wave reached full strength with the election of Ciaran Cuffe to the European Parliament.

The Greens also scored big in the local elections, with voters returning almost 50 of its 82 candidates, with many in the capital topping the polls.

During the weekend, the Taoiseach said that the Government needs to act fast on climate following the “very clear message” from the electorate.

Leo Varadkar said that policy will need to change across the board and that the “public are up for that” in order to tackle climate change.

Despite the climate rhetoric, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said today that the issuing of the new drilling licence shows that “behind closed doors, it is business as usual”.

“It is a sad state of affairs when the public is being fundamentally misled by this government as to their intentions on climate action and it represents a serious a failure of judgement and abdication of responsibility,” he said.

Green Party Deputy Leader Catherine Martin TD added that she now has
“no faith” in the current Government to deliver anything on climate “beyond smoke and mirrors and empty promises”.

“The Taoiseach said that the climate emergency declaration was symbolic in the Dáil – these licences are symbolic of Fine Gael’s total failure to comprehend the reality of a climate emergency,” she added.

License to drill

The Department received an application last November from CNOOC for permission to drill an exploratory well in the Porcupine Basin area.

In a letter sent yesterday to CNOOC, the Department confirmed that the Minister of State with responsibility for Natural Resources Séan Canney TD has now granted consent for CNOOC to undertake drilling activities at the proposed site.

Earlier this year, the Department said that screening for appropriate assessment was required to assess the possible impact on a nearby protected nature site.

The move came after a consultancy firm hired by the Department indicated that it was not satisfied with CNOONC’s environmental report.

Mr Canney has also consented to the placing of a temporary well head and associated infrastructure on the seabed, with the decision open to legal challenge via judicial review proceedings for the following three months.  

The letter states that the development of Ireland’s indigenous oil and gas resources has the potential to “deliver significant and sustained benefits” in securing an indigenous energy supply over imports, economic development, and financial return.

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

‘Slap in the Face’

People Before Profit’s Brid Smith has previously told The Green News that granting the license would be “a slap in the face to climate movement”.

“Despite the rhetoric, despite the PR and spin it shows this Government does not get climate change and doesn’t understand what is happening,” she said.

“This latest licence round is a slap in the face of both the movement in Ireland and the global movement on climate.”

About the Author

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

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