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Eamon Ryan seeks ban on future oil and gas exploration but existing licences will be honoured

The Irish Offshore Operators’ Association welcomed the decision to honour existing licences.

Image: PA

CABINET HAS APPROVED the introduction of legislation to ban new licenses for oil and gas exploration, however, existing licences issued by the State will still be honoured under proposed plans. 

Minister for Transport, Environment and Climate Eamon Ryan is hoping to bring about this change by adding a provision to the Climate Action and Low Carbon Amendment Bill which will go before the Oireachtas shortly.

Existing authorisations for exploration will remain in place and applications and activities, “remaining subject to technical, financial, and environmental assessments as appropriate,” according to the Department. 

“The decision we have made today to legislate for a ban on new oil exploration and extraction will send a powerful message, within Ireland and internationally, that Ireland is moving away from fossil fuels towards a renewable future,” said Ryan. 

“By keeping fossil fuels in the ground, we will incentivise the transition to renewable energy and put ourselves on a pathway to net zero by 2050.”

The Irish Offshore Operators’ Association (IOOA) said that the honouring of existing licences will enable its members to proceed with projects around Barryroe and Corrib fields “with confidence” but questioned the rationale of a future ban on exploration on a legislative basis “as it limits Ireland’s options for energy security in the future”. 

IOOA chairperson Alan Linn said:  “We remain dedicated to promoting and facilitating Government and regulatory support for infrastructure led exploration, ensuring existing infrastructure at Corrib, Kinsale and Barryroe are optimised.

“Through IOOA’s engagements with national and regional stakeholders we will demonstrate the role Irish oil and gas has to play in our evolving society and economy. The State has guaranteed to progress the existing offshore licences issued to our members in previous licencing rounds.”

Labour climate spokesperson Duncan Smith said the Minister’s commitment to banning future oil and gas licences is welcome but does not go far enough. 

“The Minister has faced and will continue to face serious pressure from oil and gas lobby groups and he needs to be supported by his Government colleagues to stand up and do the right thing for our planet,” said Smith. 

“It’s disappointing that the Minister could not divorce himself entirely from the oil and gas industry and commit to a timeline to ban all drilling licences. 

“These companies are putting profit before people, before the next generation, and before the advice of scientists. We need to recognise that this is a global crisis and needs to be treated with the same focus and swift action as any other crisis of this scale.”

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Smith added he looks forward to engaging with the detail of the Bill once published, but a coordinated approach that takes account of the severity of the crisis is needed.

Likewise, People Before Profit’s Bríd Smith welcomed the move but said the debate has moved on and a ban on future licences alone does not reflect the scale of the crisis facing humanity.

“Some of the existing licences are good till 2034 and possible beyond and some are facing renewal immediately,” said Smith. 

“We need the Minister to declare that he will use his existing powers to refuse to renew these and more widely we need to ensure that the fossil fuel industry get the clear message that the game is up- that means a complete ban on LNGs and related infrastructure.”

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Adam Daly

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