October 31st, 2019
Extinction Rebellion activists called on the Government to revoke all oil and gas prospecting licences during a protest staged outside a petrochemical conference yesterday.
Demonstrators held an action outside the Burlington Clayton Hotel in Dublin to oppose the Atlantic Ireland 2019 Conference where Minister of State for Natural Resources Sean Canney TD delivered the opening address.
Fifteen litres of fake blood was poured at the entrance to the hotel hosting the conference that Extinction Rebellion Ireland said represented “the blood on the hands of the oil corporations”.
The two-day event is run by the Irish Shelf Petroleum Study Group (ISPG) and promotes oil exploration and development within the petrochemistry industry. The ISPSG is part of the wider Petroleum Infrastructure Programme (PIP) within the Department of Climate Action.
“The oil industry has known for decades that climate change was a problem but has carried on drilling, despite decades of warnings,” Extinction Rebellion Ireland said in a statement.
The science is now “screaming we are in trouble,” the group continued, and taking any action, “will disrupt or stop oil exploration and will raise awareness with the public and the government of the need of urgent climate action”.
At the conference, Mr Canney outlined further details of the Taoiseach’s unexpected announcement in his address to the United Nations Climate Action Summit in late September to cease new offshore exploration for oil.
Mr Canney confirmed that all future licencing rounds in the currently closed offshore area – around 80 per cent of offshore – will be only for natural gas – viewed by the Government as a vital transition fuel toward decarbonisation by mid-century.
All new licence applications in the remaining open 20 per cent of our offshore area, namely the Celtic Sea, Irish Sea and coastal areas, will also only be open for natural gas only.
All applications and authorisations in place before the Taoiseach’s announcement was made will not be affected by the decision. There are almost 40 existing exploration licences for both oil and gas, some of which allow for drilling until 2034.
Extinction Rebellion Ireland demands
Extinction Rebellion read out their demands during the action during the protest, including revoking all prospecting oil and gas licences, enacting a People Before Profit Bill to limit future exploration licences, and to drop any support for the proposed Shannon Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal.
The Shannon LNG project has been put forward by the Irish government as a Project of Common Interest to the EU and is the only standalone Irish project on the list.
Critics argue that the Government is well aware that gas entering the terminal would come from the US fracking industry as the company behind the project, New Fortress Energy, currently receives gas from the industry and also intends to expand its operation into the fracking hotbed of Pennsylvania.
Fracking – banned in Ireland over environmental and health concerns – involves the injection of pressurised water, sand, and various chemicals into shale rock to force the gas out. Numerous studies have linked fracking to health issues, earth tremors, and large carbon and methane emissions.
People Before Profit’s The Climate Emergency Measures Bill initially passed in the Dail last year and was scheduled to proceed to Committee Stage over the summer but was stalled when Minister Canney told Brid Smith TD that the Bill required a money message.
A money message is essentially a State recommendation signed by the Taoiseach approving of legislation that will cost the State money as per Article 17.2 of the Constitution.
The Article states no law that requires the spending of public money shall be passed without Government approval first. Unless approval is received, a Bill cannot progress to Committee Stage.
People Before Profit’s Bríd Smith, who sponsored the Bill, said itis now clear that the Government’s declaration of a climate emergency was merely an “exercise in spin and greenwashing”.
“Fine Gael and the government are now shown up to be climate saboteurs. Their interests are not with the planet or the climate, or with the student strikers- their interests are with the polluting fossil fuel industry,” she added.