Govt accused of 'utter hypocrisy' after blocking Bill banning oil and gas exploration

Govt accused of 'utter hypocrisy' after blocking Bill banning oil and gas exploration

The Government has been accused of "utter hypocrisy" on climate change after it blocked a Bill seeking to ban oil and gas exploration in Irish waters.

The Climate Emergency Bill, proposed by People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith would ban oil and gas exploration in Irish waters and seeks to limit the issuing of new licences for the exploration and extraction of fossil fuels.

Ms Smith and environmental groups have reacted furiously to the Government's use of a little-known parliamentary rule to scupper its bill.

Yesterday, Environment Minister Richard Bruton recommended the bill required a so-called 'money message'.

This requirement stops a bill from progressing to committee stage for debate. The order is made on the grounds of the Government feeling that the passing of proposed legislation would have a cost implication for the State.

Ms Smith said the decision shows “the utter hypocrisy of the Government on climate and renders null and void any other measure in the Climate Action Plan”.

If we can’t stop new exploration for fossil fuels while knowing that 80% of existing reserves need to stay in the ground then we will never limit climate change to 1.5 degrees.

Friends of the Earth described Taoiseach Leo Varadkar as a "climate vandal" and a "hitman for the fossil fuel industry" after the decision.

"We know that oil and gas companies have been lobbying hard to kill this Bill, and today Leo Varadkar acted as their hitman, putting a bullet in the head of a Bill that would have broken the fossil fuel industry's stranglehold on policy and power," said Friends of the Earth director Oisín Coghlan.

However, CEO of the Irish Offshore Operators’ Association (IOOA) Mandy Johnston welcomed the move saying that it paved the way for finds similar to the Kinsale and Corrib gas fields which currently supply 60% of gas to Irish homes and businesses.

“Government has recognised that using our own natural resources is not only good for energy security but also good for the environment and jobs. The facts speak for themselves: Russian Gas imported to Ireland creates 34% to 38% more greenhouse gas emissions than using Irish gas, while Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) imported from Qatar creates 22% to 30% more. There is no realistic scenario under which gas and oil will not be required to contribute a major part of Ireland’s energy supply in the short to medium term," she said.

Ibec senior executive Conor Minogue said the Government's decision was a "sensible one" given the important role that natural gas will still have to play in Ireland’s energy mix and low carbon transition over the coming years.

"Natural gas is the primary fuel for power generation in Ireland today and it will play a vital role as we transition to zero carbon alternatives and move away from other fossil fuels. Renewable technologies like wind and solar can currently only take us so far," he said.

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