Ireland has taken the biggest leap that any nation has yet to taken: the commitment to divest all public funds from fossil fuels. The Irish Parliament passed the legislation by a whopping majority of 90 to 53 in favour of divesting from coal, oil and gas investments in the €8bn ($8.6 billion) Ireland Strategic Investment Fund, which is a part of the Republic’s National Treasury Management Agency. The bill has yet to be officially passed. That will hopefully happen in the coming months once the financial committee has approved it. The Ireland Strategic Investment Fund would then have five years to divest from fossil fuels completely.
The news is, of course, being received enthusiastically by environmentalists. "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," Éamonn Meehan, executive director of the Catholic poverty charity Trócaire, told the Belfast Telegraph.
Deputy Thomas Pringle introduced the bill and spoke to the media, stating: “This principle of ethical financing is a symbol to these global corporations that their continual manipulation of climate science, denial of the existence of climate change and their controversial lobbying practices of politicians around the world is no longer tolerated. We cannot accept their actions while millions of poor people in underdeveloped nations bear the brunt of climate change forces as they experience famine, mass emigration and civil unrest as a result.”
Although Ireland is a small country and the bill will most likely not be the tipping point to halting climate change in its tracks, the bill stands as a symbol of encouragement and accountability for other developed nations to do their part in the climate equation. And indeed, Ireland is not only in these divestment ventures. Following Futurism, The Divest Invest Initiative had already gathered almost $5.2 trillion in fossil fuel divestment pledges from 76 countries. Norway in particular has been touted as a leader with their national commitment to be carbon neutral by 2030. China, too, announced its plan to eradicate 104 coal-fired projects across 13 provinces as part of their anti-coal stance.
While fossil fuels is by far the biggest offender in terms of carbon emissions, other sources of energy such as natural gas fracking are also worrisome, especially given that some energy companies and their lobbyists have been putting up a fight to convey fracking as a “clean energy” source. ScienceAlert reports that the Irish parliament is also starting to examine their relationship with fracking, though it is unclear what path the country will take involving the matter.