Ireland became the first country in the world to vote to fully divest from fossil fuels and we've got the recap on what is going on across the pond for the Irish, and how other European countries are leading the battle for renewable energy change.
The sun seemed to shine through the typical cloudy day of Jan. 26 in Dublin, Ireland as lawmakers renewed hope for a sustainable future by voting to halt further fossil fuel investments. This remarkable step forward makes Ireland the first nation to fully divest from fossil fuels in a majority vote of 90 to 53. The Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill seeks to divest from Ireland’s sovereign wealth fund for technological investment, the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF), over the next five years. The ISIF is valued at more than $9 billion and works towards investments against the fossil fuel industry. This would result in the end of public spending towards fossil fuel energy titans.
The bill, brought to parliament by independent representative Deputy Thomas Pringle, argues that governments should take responsibility as they “have an essential role to play in backing up their Paris Climate Agreement pledges by ensuring public funds are well placed to support the clean energy transition, and protected from inevitable decline of the fossil fuel industry,” a message of “ethical financing” he hopes to exemplify towards climate skeptic energy companies and political lobbyists alike to turn away from Ireland.
The bill could be passed into law within the next few months after conversations amongst the finance committee. As the Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill becomes law, questions of its practicality and effectiveness arise.
The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland sets goals for the country, pledging to have the nation’s renewable energy make up 40 percent of gross electricity consumption and 16 percent of the total final consumption by 2020. Reports from the Irish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in late 2016, however, find that although renewable energy use is steadily increasing, it only accounts for 27.3 percent of the nation’s electricity generation. With these numbers, the EPA states that Ireland would require a “large-scale public and private investment in energy infrastructure, including energy efficient and innovative energy management systems, energy distribution and smart grid systems” – exactly why Deputy Pringle proposed the Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill. Although these numbers hinder confidence in renewable energy, the bill makes a major push in meeting the nation’s goals.
The decision to pass the bill into law is monumental for Ireland, yet miniscule from a global perspective. Due to the nation’s small size, the bill will only impact the environment slightly. However, the move is aggressive and a strong message to other nations, especially in Europe, to follow the recent Paris agreements to keep the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius. Even before Ireland, Norway decided to divest from coal, pulling out an $8 billion investment from their sovereign fund. Now 98 percent of Norway’s electricity production comes from renewable energy sources. Countries such as Sweden, Denmark and Latvia also lead the way in achieving their renewable energy goals.
The Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill looks to rejuvenate hope in an Irish sustainable future, while acting as an inspiring initiative for other nations to follow. A global inspiration in which Trocaire Executive Director Eamonn Meehan argues 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.” For a nation to fully divest from cheap fossil fuels requires confidence and willingness to bet against energy titans – characteristics the Irish clearly maintain, yet the rest of the world needs.