Speaking recently in the European Parliament, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar spelled out his deep unhappiness at his own government’s wholly inadequate response to climate change: “As far as I am concerned, we are a laggard. I am not proud of Ireland’s performance on climate change ... There are lots of things that we intend to do so that we can meet those targets. And it’s something that I am very committed to, and certainly, my generation of politicians is very committed to.”

John Gibbons, An Taisce’s Climate Change spokesperson stated “We welcome that statement and evident new resolve: but ultimately, it is tangible actions that matter, not words. Wednesday this week will see the Taoiseach’s first opportunity to deliver such action, when the Petroleum and Other Minerals Development (Climate Emergency Measures) Bill 2017 comes before the Dáil for second stage debate.” He continued “Informally known as the ‘keep it in the ground’ Bill, this would prohibit further exploration and drilling for new fossil fuel resources anywhere in Irish territorial waters - unless and until the current dangerous concentrations of the greenhouse pollutant carbon dioxide fall back to scientifically determined safe levels.”

In December 2015 in Paris, world leaders agreed to take urgent action to halt climate change. States committed to “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above preindustrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels’’. Yet despite this commitment, the world currently remains on track for catastrophic global warming with worsening health, environmental and economic impacts, particularly in developing countries. The single biggest contributor to this failure is the continued burning of fossil fuels: coal, oil, natural gas and peat. The fossil fuel industry continues extracting and burning hydrocarbons at unsustainable rates, and even persists in exploring for more. Every single new extraction site that is opened threatens the achievement of the Paris Agreement commitments.

To date, successive Irish governments have defended continued exploration using the straw man argument of enhancing national energy “security”: but seeking new sources for generating devastating pollution is the very opposite of “security”. There is only one genuine and defensible way to secure Ireland’s energy future: and that is with the greatest possible contribution from clean, zero carbon, indigenous renewable resources. That can and should be the sole focus of Ireland’s strategy for “energy security”, not the dangerous distraction of yesterday’s fossil fuels.

The Bill being debated this week represents a modest, but still hugely symbolic, step. It involves zero tangible cost to the Exchequer, and comes with many co-benefits, not least being to protect marine ecologies, and to claw back some of our tattered international reputation.

John Gibbons, stated “The issue for the Dáil this week is only whether to allow the Bill to continue to committee: therefore if there are any technical deficiencies, there will be ample opportunity to correct them there. For tomorrow, the only issue is one of principle: is the Taoiseach genuinely committed to climate leadership, or will he - like his predecessors - refuse at the very first hurdle?”

For the scientific background to this Bill, please see this short video commentary prepared by the eminent international climate scientist Professor Kevin Anderson of the UK’s Tyndal Centre for Climate Change Research: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H9vwTKuoicM


For further information, contact:
John Gibbons, An Taisce Climate Change Committee: +353 87 233 2689
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce. Tel: +353 87 241 1995
email: [email protected]
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland


For the scientific background to this Bill, please see this short video commentary prepared by the eminent international climate scientist Professor Kevin Anderson of the UK’s Tyndal Centre for Climate Change Research: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H9vwTKuoicM

About An Taisce

An Taisce is a charity that works to preserve and protect Ireland's natural and built heritage. We are an independent charitable voice for the environment and for heritage issues. We are not a government body, semi-state or agency. Founded in 1948, we are one of Ireland’s oldest and largest environmental organisations.