In a groundbreaking bill approved by Irish parliament on Thursday 12th of July, the Irish government is set to completely divest its Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) from companies with shares in the fossil fuel industry. The move makes the Irish government the first government in the world to divest from fossil fuels.
The Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill will require the €8.9 bn (£6.8bn) invested in the ISIF fund to move away from fossil fuel undertakings within a period of five years, and prohibits any future investments in the industry. In practice this means that at least €300m in fossil fuel investments in 150 companies will be divested. A fossil fuel company was defined according to the bill as a company that derives 20% or more of its revenue from exploration, extraction or refinement of fossil fuels.
The bill, introduced by Deputy Thomas Pringle in 2017, has now passed in the lower house of parliament and is expected to pass through the upper house without any difficulty, meaning it likely to become law before the end of 2018.
“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,” said Gerry Liston, the Legal Officer with the Global Legal Action Network, who drafted the Bill.
Éamonn Meehan, Executive Director of Trócaire, an Irish charity, said: “Today the Oireachtas [the National parliament of Ireland] has made a powerful statement. It has responded to the public’s call for leadership on this issue and sent a powerful signal to the international community about the need to speed up the phase out of fossil fuels if global climate goals are to be delivered.”
“Ireland has gained a reputation internationally in recent years as a ‘climate laggard’ and just last month Ireland was ranked the second worst European country for Climate Action, so the passing of this Bill is good news but has to mark a significant change of pace on the issue,” mr. Meehan added.
“We hope this important piece of legislation will move quickly through the Seanad [Ireland’s upper house] and be enacted before year end. We must do all we can to prevent climate change from reversing the decades of progress made in reducing poverty worldwide.”
In 2015, Norway came close to being the first government in the world to divest from fossil fuels: it divested part of its $1tn sovereign pension fund from some fossil fuel companies, but not all.
The approval of the bill by Irish parliament can be rewatched here.Arthur Wyns