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Taoiseach tells UN Climate Summit that exploration for oil in Irish waters will end

During his speech, Varadkar said he wants Ireland to be known as a “green country”.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar making a speech at the UN climate summit this evening
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar making a speech at the UN climate summit this evening
Image: Screengrab via UN.org

Updated Sep 23rd 2019, 8:17 PM

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has given a speech at the UN Climate Summit in New York. 

During his speech, Varadkar said Ireland will act on recommendations that exploration for oil in should end. 

“In the last week, on foot of a request from me, our independent Climate Change Advisory Council recommended that exploration for oil should end, as it is incompatible with a low carbon future,” Varadkar said. 

However, he said: “They recommended that exploration for natural gas should continue for now, as a transition fuel that we will need for decades to come while alternatives are developed and fully deployed.” 

Varadkar added that he accepts this advice and “Ireland will now act on it”. 

During the opening of his speech, Varadkar said he wants Ireland to be known as a “green country” because of how it responds to “the climate and environmental challenges facing our planet”. 

Minister Richard Bruton, who is tasked with dealing with climate action, previously said that banning oil and gas exploration overnight would only force Ireland to rely on imports. 

“When the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine we need a back-up,” said the minister, adding that the “back -up remains oil and gas,” he said in May.

Today’s announcement is also a departure from what the Minister of State for Rural Affairs and Natural Resources Seán Canney said to Irish oil and gas exploration stakeholders last year at the Atlantic Ireland Conference. 

Regarding the future exploration for fossil fuels in Ireland, Canney told the conference that the Irish government “recognises that the realisation of Ireland’s offshore oil and gas resource potential can deliver significant benefits to the people of Ireland”.  

He said Ireland imported 100% of the country’s oil needs in 2017, while for gas, it was a much lower figure of 34%.

Canney said discovery and development of Ireland’s offshore oil and gas resources “has the potential to deliver much-needed energy security. In addition, offshore discovery and development has the potential to be a very significant economic driver for Ireland”.

Keep it in the Ground Bill 

People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith has said the Taoiseach’s announcement today that he intends to phase out oil exploration in Ireland is “too little, too late” given that his government has already issued licences that will allow exploration up to 2035 and possibly beyond.

“When does the Taoiseach intend to ban fossil fuel exploration?” she asked. 

Smith’s Climate Emergency Bill, also known as the Keep it in the Ground Bill, which aims to ban the issuing of further licences for fossil fuel extraction, has been blocked by government this year. 

It aims to stop the issuing of any new licences for the exploration of fossil fuels, something Costa Rica, Belize and France have already implemented. 

Smith said that if the Irish government passed her Bill, Ireland could be a beacon to the world on the banning of licences for fossil fuel extraction. 

The Bill has been held up after the government requested that it needs a “money message”. 

For Private Members’ Bills involving incidental public expenditure, a money message is required for it to proceed to Committee stage. 

“If Leo Varadkar wants to be taken seriously than he needs to give the Climate Emergency Bill a money message,” she said. 

The Green Party has welcomed the decision that oil exploration is to end, however they said gas exploration must end too. 

With reporting by Hayley Halpin

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