Ireland makes world history as first country to divest from fossil fuels

13 Jul 20182.22k Views

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Government to drop coal, oil and gas investments from the ISIF and NTMA.

History was made in Dáil Éireann yesterday (12 July) when the Irish Parliament voted to pass the Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill.

This makes Ireland the first country in the world to fully divest from fossil fuels after politicians voted to effectively withdraw all public funds from coal, oil and gas companies.

‘Climate change is one of the leading drivers of poverty and hunger in the developing world and we see its devastating impact every day in the communities in which we work’
– ÉAMONN MEEHAN

Now, Irish politicians are urging other countries to follow Ireland’s lead.

The bill marks the culmination of two years’ work by Donegal TD Thomas Pringle and means the Irish Government will have to drop coal, oil and gas investments from the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) as well as the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA).

ISIF’s fossil fuel investments, for example, stand at €300m in 150 companies worldwide.

Pringle is understood to have been inspired by universities and cities around the world that have withdrawn financial support from the fossil fuel industry.

Rather than opposing the innovative bill, it appears that, although initially hesitant, the Irish Government worked with Pringle on an amendment and agreed to support it last week at a Cabinet meeting.

A chance for Ireland to improve its performance on tackling climate change

The bill requires Ireland’s sovereign fund, worth €8.9bn, to move out of investing in fossil fuels as “soon as practicable”.

The Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill will now make its way to the upper house of the Irish Parliament, the Seanad.

A similar recommendation has been made by Norway’s central bank for its $1trn sovereign wealth fund – boosted no doubt by oil – to divest from fossil fuels.

Crucially, it signals waning faith in the future of fossil fuels – the world’s greatest greenhouse gas emitters – and for Ireland, it is a chance to improve on the country’s image as a laggard in tackling climate change.

Éamonn Meehan, executive director of Trócaire, said that the passing of the bill is also a chance to fight poverty.

“Today, the Oireachtas has made a powerful statement. It has responded to the public’s call for leadership on this issue and sent a powerful signal to the international community about the need to speed up the phase-out of fossil fuels if global climate goals are to be delivered.

“This is vital. Climate change is one of the leading drivers of poverty and hunger in the developing world and we see its devastating impact every day in the communities in which we work. Extended droughts, floods and storms have already contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, with millions more facing hunger and in need of urgent aid just to survive.

“Ireland has gained a reputation internationally in recent years as a ‘climate laggard’ and just last month Ireland was ranked the second-worst European country for climate action, so the passing of this bill is good news but has to mark a significant change of pace on the issue,” Meehan said.

Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com