Ireland likely to be first country in the world to ban fossil fuel investment

27 Jan 2017

Image: Nikolay Gyngazov/Shutterstock

With the passing of the Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill in the Dáil, Ireland is just one step away from becoming the first country in the world to stop all Strategic Investment Fund payments that support fossil fuels.

The Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill introduced by independent minister Thomas Pringle, TD, put forward legislation that would take the drastic step of banning all Government investment in fossil fuels.

More specifically, it would affect the Government’s Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF), estimated to be worth approximately €8bn, which would no longer be made available to companies working with coal, gas or oil.

Government defeated

Standing in the way of the legislation was the Fine Gael-led coalition Government, but yesterday’s vote (26 January), saw it lose by 90 to 53, meaning it has now passed in the Dáil.

With support from all other parties in parliament, all that stands in the way of passing it into law is its approval from the committee stage of the Government.

If passed, Ireland would become the first country in the world to introduce legislation banning fossil fuel investment, which would go down well with many climate campaigners across Ireland and the world.

Despite the Government’s disapproval of the legislation, the introduction of the law would do well to boost the country’s image within Europe, following criticism emerging from a Brussels-based environmental organisation that said Ireland was “avoiding its responsibility to reduce carbon emissions”.

‘We should not associate with Trump-era politics’

In his speech on the Bill in the Dáil, Pringle referenced the new US president Donald Trump and the resulting upheaval in the American scientific community over his climate change denial.

“Let us remind ourselves that we should not associate with Trump-era politics,” Pringle said. “His administration and his public display of affection for Big Oil is representative of the industry’s failing legacy and its last attempt to hold onto power.”

Commenting on the Bill’s passing in the Dáil, the Irish charity organisation Trócaire’s executive director, Éamonn Meehan, said it gives us a “fighting chance” to avert an environmental disaster.

“The Irish political system is now finally acknowledging what the overwhelming majority of people already know: that to have a fighting chance to combat catastrophic climate change, we must phase out fossil fuels and stop the growth of the industry that is driving this crisis.

“The support of a majority in the Dáil for this Bill is an incredibly important moment for the climate justice movement in Ireland and will inspire other countries to follow our lead.”

Trócaire said it has been campaigning for the Bill since early 2016.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic