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Leo's Legacy: a hitman for the fossil fuel industry

4 Jul 2019

Poolbeg chimneys. A monument to the sunset industries of the fossil fuel age. Photo by Philip Milne.

Varadkar chooses the climate vandals over the climate vanguard, as Government kills Climate Emergency Bill

Friends of the Earth has described An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar as a "Climate Vandal" and a "hitman for the fossil fuel industry" after the Cabinet today used an arcane parliamentary procedure to prevent any further debate on the Climate Emergency Bill for the duration of this Oireachtas and this Government. The Bill, which the Dáil has twice voted to progress to Third Stage, would end the issuing of new licences to explore for oil and gas in Irish waters.

Responding to media reports of the Cabinet decision, Oisín Coghlan, Director of Friends of the Earth said:

"There's only one group of people celebrating the Government's decision tonight, and that's the fossil fuel industry, who pour hundreds of millions of euro into lobbying to keep their profits flowing. And it's paid off here.

"Leo Varadkar and his Government faced a simple choice today between the past and the future and they chose to cling to the past and forsake our common future.

"Leo Varadkar, the Taoiseach who admitted Ireland was a climate laggard had the chance to join the ranks of the climate vanguard today. Instead, he chose to join the climate vandals.

"Leo chose to side with Trump and Bolsanaro who say 'Drill, baby, drill' rather than side with the likes of Macron and Arden whose countries are among those that have announced moratoriums or bans on further oil and gas exploration.

"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.

"Nothing else Leo Varadkar and this Government plans to do on climate change in their remaining months on office matters now. Leo has made this the defining issue of this legacy on climate change.

"This Bill has become a bright red line for the growing Irish climate movement. Red for the fake blood of the recent Extinction Rebellion action outside the Dáil, and red for the real blood of the innocent victims of climate change fuelled by our thirst for oil and gas."

Given that 80% of existing fossil fuel reserves, already on the books of companies and states, have to stay in the ground to give us a decent chance of staying under 2C of global warming and meeting the minimum goal of the Paris Agreement, the Government's position is either that they don’t expect the Paris Agreement to be implemented and certainly aren’t plannng on Ireland playing its part, OR that they expect Saudi Arabia or Russia or Venezuela or the US to leave some of their existing proven reserves in the ground so they and their oil industry buddies can have some of the shrinking fossil fuel extraction market.

"They first position is immoral, the second is implausible", Mr Coghlan continued.

The Government decision comes two days after a new paper in Nature concluded that to meet the Paris Agreement Goal of limiting global warming to 1.5C there can be no more investment in fossil fuel infrastructure anywhere, ever, from now on. And one day after former President, Mary Robinson, speaking at the ICTU Conference praised Swedish teen Greta Thunberg for her directness, quoting her saying:

"Until you start focusing on what needs to be done rather than what is politically possible, there is no hope. We can’t solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis. We need to keep the fossil fuels in the ground, and we need to focus on equity. And if solutions within the system are so impossible to find, maybe we should change the system itself." - Greta Thunberg, Poland, 15 Dec 2018

Mr Coghlan concluded by saying:

"Today Leo Varadkar gave his considered response to the tens of thousands of school children who took to the streets in Ireland looking for climate action commensurate to the Emergency we face: 'Let them burn'.

"They will certainly burn with fury after this. History will judge whose vision of our world, fossil fuelled hell or safe clean future, will prevail" 

The updated Stop Climate Chaos Coalition mythbuster on the issues raised by the Climate Emergency Bill is online here:

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