Ireland to abandon fossil-fuel investment
Ireland has moved to become the world’s first country to sell off its investments in fossil-fuel companies after a bill was passed through the lower house of the Oireachtas parliament with cross-party support.
The new legislation is intended to help ensure Ireland meets its commitments under the 2015 Paris climate agreement, the first deal to unite the international community in tackling climate change which Donald Trump has subsequently abandoned.
Ireland’s €8-billion sovereign-wealth fund will be required to sell all investments in coal, oil, gas and peat “as soon as is practicable”, which was interpreted to mean within five years.
The use of polluting peat as a domestic fuel is still common throughout much of Ireland.
The move by governments and private entities to ditch fossil-fuel investments has grown rapidly and trillions of dollars from large pension funds and insurers, cities including New York, churches and universities have diversified.
Environmentalists say existing fossil-fuel reserves are already far greater than can be burned without causing catastrophic climate change and that further exploration is ecologically unsustainable. Other campaigners argue that remaining as shareholders and persuading oil and gas firms to change is more effective.
The bill defines a fossil-fuel company as an employer that derives at least 20 per cent of its revenue from exploration, extraction or refinement from conventional fuels. But it allows investment in Irish companies if this funds their move away from fossil fuels.
Ireland’s fossil-fuel divestment bill was passed by the lower house, Dáil Éireann, yesterday (Thursday) and it is expected to get the all-clear from the upper house, Seanad, meaning it could become legislation before the year’s end. The Irish state investment fund reportedly holds more than €300 million in fossil-fuel investments in 150 companies.
“The movement is highlighting the need to stop investing in the expansion of a global industry which must be brought into managed decline if catastrophic climate change is to be averted,” Thomas Pringle, the independent MP who introduced the bill, told the media. “Ireland, by divesting, is sending a clear message that the Irish public and the international community are ready to think and act beyond narrow short-term vested interests.”
Éamonn Meehan of the development charity Trócaire praised the work of MPs: “Today the Oireachtas has sent a powerful signal to the international community about the need to speed up the phase-out of fossil fuels.”
Meehan added: “Just last month Ireland was ranked the second-worst European country for climate action, so the passing of this bill is good news. But it has to mark a significant change of pace on the issue.”
Gerry Liston at Global Legal Action Network, which helped draft the legislation, said: “Governments will not meet their obligations under the Paris agreement on climate change if they continue to financially sustain the fossil-fuel industry. Countries the world over must now urgently follow Ireland’s lead and divest from fossil fuels.”
Ireland has great potential for renewable energy. Picture credit: PXHere