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Eamon Ryan in Dublin last month. Sam Boal
Oil and Gas

Ireland can 'take on this Putin regime' by cutting Russian fossil fuel imports, Eamon Ryan says

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres said today that “addiction to fossil fuels is mutually assured destruction”.

ONE OF THE best ways Ireland can “actually take on this Putin regime” is to increase renewable energy and stop buying Russian coal, oil and gas, the Environment Minister has said. 

Eamon Ryan said Ireland’s reliance on imported fossil fuels is “what is putting us most at risk”. 

Ireland doesn’t directly import a lot of natural gas or oil from Russia, but Britain and Europe both import a lot of gas and oil from the country. About 40% of European gas comes from Russia and 27% of its oil.

“Ultimately, one of the best ways we can actually take on this Putin regime is to stop sending the hundreds of millions of euros we send every day for the imported coal, oil and gas that Russia exports and helps fund this war,” the minister told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.

He said this is not only helps Ukraine will also help Ireland become independent and “protect us from reliance on those imported fossil fuels”. 

Under the government’s Climate Action Plan, 70-80% of Ireland’s electricity will come from renewables such as wind and solar by 2030. 

Emissions generated from electricity must fall by between 62% and 81% by 2030 compared to 2018. 

The Department of the Environment today launched the Maritime Area Consent regime and called for applications to develop the first offshore wind farms around the Irish coast. 

Renewable energy developers can apply for Maritime Area Consents and, if approved by the minister, they can apply for permission from An Bord Pleanála. 

The first MACs are due to be issued in the second half of this year, the department said. 

The minister said earlier there will be six wind farms on the east coast of the country and one on the west coast. 

The projects will be subject to planning permission and an auction process. Ryan said the projects could be up and running within four years. 

“Our sea area is seven times our land area. We have one of the windiest places on the planet,” the minister added. 

Speaking at the opening of the MAC application process today, Ryan said it has never “been more vital” to use Ireland’s “vast offshore wind resource to create renewable energy”. 

“The development of our offshore wind energy capacity will lessen, and eventually eradicate our dependence on imported fossil fuels, and bring an unprecedented reduction in CO2 emissions for a climate neutral future,” the minister said. 

11% of Ireland’s electricity was powered by coal in February, more than twice the level in the same month last year. 

Latest figures from Gas Networks Ireland show that wind generated 53% of the country’s electricity in February. This figure was 33% in January. 

The record-high wind figure led to a reduction in electricity generated by gas – dropping from 45% in January to 28% in February.

About 27% of Irish demand for gas is met with supply from the Corrib gas field, according to Gas Networks Ireland.

The other 73% is met with supply from Britain.

Ireland imports all of its oil from abroad, about 70% of it in the form of finished petrol and diesel products, according to a 2020 report by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland.

Most of these imports come from Britain. 

The EU recently proposed a plan to cut Europe’s dependence on Russia for fossil fuels by two-thirds by the end of this year.

‘Mutually assured destruction’

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres warned today that countries scrambling to replace Russian oil, gas and coal supplies with any available alternative may fuel the world’s “mutually assured destruction” through climate change.

Guterres said the “all-of-the-above” strategy being pursued by major economies to end fossil fuel imports from Russia because of its invasion of Ukraine could kill hopes of keeping global warming below dangerous levels.

“Countries could become so consumed by the immediate fossil fuel supply gap that they neglect or knee-cap policies to cut fossil fuel use,” he said by video at an event organised by the Economist weekly.

“This is madness. Addiction to fossil fuels is mutually assured destruction.”

Germany, one of Russia’s biggest energy customers, wants to increase its supply of oil from the Gulf and speed up the building of terminals to receive liquefied natural gas.

In the US, White House spokesperson Jen Psaki earlier this month said the war in Ukraine was a reason for American oil and gas producers to “go get more supply out of the ground in our own country”.

Guterres said that “instead of hitting the brakes on the decarbonisation of the global economy, now is the time to put the pedal to the metal towards a renewable energy future”.

His comments came as scientists on the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change began a two-week meeting to finalise their latest report about the world’s efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

The most recent report from the IPCC released last month said that the impacts of climate change are already causing severe and widespread disruption around the world. 

Additional reporting by Press Association.  

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