A move by Green Party members to stop the development of a €125m natural gas processing plant in Cork harbour as well as further oil and gas exploration off the Cork coast has failed.
Green Party councillor Alan O'Connor had sought to have the ban on new fossil fuel infrastructure and exploration enshrined in the forthcoming Cork County Development Plan, which is a blueprint currently being drawn up for development in the region for the next six years.
County council chief executive Tim Lucey said current national policy on energy security "does not support the stance of opposing the construction of new fossil fuel infrastructure, or opposing the exploration for gas and oil covered by existing exploration licences.”
Mr O'Connor argued several major studies had shown no new fossil fuel infrastructure or exploration should take place if the world is to address climate change.
His party colleague Liam Quaide said thousands of scientists had flagged the climate emergency and increased melting of permafrost was one of the “dire warnings” that needed to be heeded now, and there needed to be a decarbonisation of the Irish energy system.
Fine Gael councillor Gerard Murphy said that after Covid-19 is dealt with, climate change will be the biggest challenge to the human race.
However, he pointed out the current laws and directions from government were that gas was to be used in a transition period for energy security, until renewable energy output can match our needs.
He said approving the Green Party motion could leave the council open to legal action from energy companies because the local authority would be acting outside current government directives.
Independent councillor Marcia D'Alton supported the Green Party councillors.
“We've made commitments to the sustainable energy codes of the UN and the Paris Accord,” she said.
Fianna Fáil councillor Pat Hayes said gas was needed for energy security until windfarms, solar farms and other renewables were able to provide replacement energy.
Fine Gael councillor Anthony Barry said he understood where the Greens were coming from, but Ireland was a long way off replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy.
“As distasteful as it is, our renewable structure is not up to the level it should be,” he said.
Fianna Fáil leader on the council, Seamus McGrath, said he recognised the climate emergency, but said unfortunately the Green motion “was a step too far right now".
“Like it or not, it's going to take time to build up renewable energy capacity,” he added.
If the motion had been successful, it would have prevented American company NextDecade, in conjunction with the Port of Cork, proceeding with a €125m project to transport Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) from the USA to a special Floating Storage and Regasification Unit (FSRU), which will be moored at a new jetty in Whitegate. The FSRU would turn the liquid gas into gas and pump it to the nearby Bord Gáis plant for distribution through the national network.