Executive Director of Trócaire calls the bill “both substantive and symbolic.”
Last July, Ireland moved to take public funds out of fossil fuels. While many universities, organizations, and even cities have made similar commitments, Ireland will be the first country to do so. According to the New York Times, Ireland’s action represents the most substantial advance for divestment in the world.
The bill commiting to divestment was passed with all party support by the lower house of Parliament and necessitates that money from the sovereign fund (8.9 billion euros) be taken out of fossil fuels. According to a statement, the change will be made, “as soon as practicable.” (The phrase likely refers to changes made to the bill: originally it called for divestment within five years, but was altered to give the government more flexibility.)
According to the Guardian, the bill defines a fossil fuel company as one that receives 20% or more of its income from the “exploration, extraction or refinement of fossil fuels.”
The divestment bill will move on to the Senate which has the ability to delay, but not overturn it. According to the aid of Thomas Pringle, the parliament member who introduced the bill, it has the support of Prime Minister Leo Varadkar and is thus almost guaranteed to become law. Varadkar’s support is expected, as he has professed hopes that Ireland will become a “leader in climate action.”
According to Pringle himself, 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. 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.”
Eamonn Meehan, director of Trócaire, the environmental organization that advocated for the bill, told the New York Times that the bill, “will stop public money being invested against the public interest, and it sends a clear signal nationally and globally that action on the climate crisis needs to be accelerated urgently, starting with the phase-out of fossil fuels.”
Currently, Ireland has over 300 million euros in fossil fuel investments, according to the Guardian. The country's decision to divest is so momentous in part because of its reputation as slacker in fighting climate change. According to a survey by Climate Action Network, conducted a month before the decision, Ireland was was ranked second to last in the category of climate action, followed by Poland. The country’s decision to divest promises a greener future for Ireland.
Now, Ireland hopes that other countries will follow its lead. According to Gerry Liston of the Global Legal Action Network, and drafter of the bill, “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.”
EMMA BRUCE is an undergraduate student studying English and marketing at Emerson College in Boston. While not writing she explores the nearest museums, reads poetry, and takes classes at her local dance studio. She is passionate about sustainable travel and can't wait to see where life will take her.