Government to legislate for ban on future oil and gas exploration

2 Feb 2021

Oil and gas extraction machinery. Image: © passarut/

The Cabinet is seeking to ban licences for new oil and gas exploration under the Climate Action Bill, but existing licenses will be honoured.

Today (2 February), Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications Eamon Ryan, TD, obtained Cabinet approval to introduce new legislation against oil and gas exploration. The proposal seeks to ban new licences for exploration and extraction of these fossil fuels, directing Ireland instead towards greener energy options.

This legislation will be included in the Climate Action and Low Carbon Amendment Bill, which is expected to go before the Oireachtas in the coming weeks. A draft of the bill was published in October 2020 and included five-year carbon budgets and emissions ceilings. It aims for Ireland to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 7pc every year for the next 10 years.

“The decision we have made today to legislate for a ban on new oil exploration and extraction will send a powerful message, within Ireland and internationally, that Ireland is moving away from fossil fuels towards a renewable future,” Ryan said.

“By keeping fossil fuels in the ground, we will incentivise the transition to renewable energy and put ourselves on a pathway to net zero by 2050.”

The Government said in 2019 that oil exploration in Irish waters would be banned and gas exploration would be phased out, but this was not put into legislation.

“The previously announced prohibition on exploration for oil has had a welcome impact in terms of the numbers of existing authorisations that have been relinquished,” Ryan added. “I expect this number to reduce further in the period ahead given the increasingly challenging global investment environment for fossil fuels.”

The proposed legislation will involve amendments for the Petroleum and Other Minerals Development Act 1960. If approved by the Oireachtas, it would not affect those with existing oil and gas exploration licences and authorisations.

People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith said the move towards legislation is “good news but doesn’t go far enough”, adding that some existing licences are valid until 2035.

Lisa Ardill was careers editor at Silicon Republic until June 2021