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Taoiseach should announce moratorium on new oil and gas exploration at UN Climate Summit

16 Sep 2019

Ireland has a rare opportunity to show real climate leadership

Friends of the Earth has called on the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to announce a moratorium on new licences for offshore exploration for oil and gas when he speaks at the special UN Summit on Climate Action this day week in New York. Before the summer the Government used a parliamentary procedure to block further debate on a Bill that would ban new exploration for good, but has now written to the Climate Change Advisory Council requesting their advice on exploration policy. The environmental campaign group proposed the moratorium at a meeting with the Taoiseach last week, arguing it should remain in place until the Council has completed its advice and a new Dáil can reconsider the issue after the General Election.

Commenting, Friends of the Earth Director, Oisín Coghlan, said:

"If Leo Varadkar announced a moratorium on new oil and gas exploration next Monday at the UN in New York it would be a genuine act of climate leadership on the world stage. "Ireland is close to having a good story to tell about our struggle to overcome our reputation as a climate laggard but the Government's decision to stop TDs even debating ending further fossil fuel exploration has undermined that possibility. "The Citizens Assembly and the special Oireachtas Committee process have demonstrated that the public and our parliament back strong climate action. This Oireachtas has banned fracking and divested the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund from fossil fuels. And if the Government follows through on its new Climate Action Plan it will move us off the bottom of the EU league tables. "The blocking of Dáil debate on exploration doesn't sit well with this and undermines the Government's presentation of itself at the UN as a champion of climate dialogue as part of its pitch for votes to be elected to he UN Security Council. Looking for votes in the General Assembly - effectively the world's parliament - based on climate dialogue, while not allowing your own parliament debate exploration is not a good look. "A moratorium on new oil and gas exploration, combined with the ban on fracking and the divestment of our sovereign wealth fund would position Ireland as a genuine world leader on the future of fossil fuels, Mr Coghlan concluded.
Ireland still has it all to do it in reducing its own emissions fast enough and far enough to be in line with the Paris Agreement. As well as the exploration moratorium, Friends of the Earth is writing to the Taoiseach outlining what else he should announce at the UN Secretary General's Climate Action Summit in New York this day week:

  • That the promised new climate law will be enacted before the General Election next Spring, including a target of net-zero emissions by 2050.

  • Support for the European Commission's proposal that the EU increase its 2030 target from a reduction of 40% in emissions to a reduction of at least 55%.

  • That having banned fracking in Ireland to protect our communities, we will not import fracked gas from under the feet of communities in the US. And that therefore the Government will not support the building of LNG terminals on the Shannon Estuary of in Cork Harbour.

  • That he has this week set up a Just Transition Taskforce, with an independent chair, with the mandate and resources from Government to negotiate a deal between peat workers, their trade unions and the ESB and Bord na Móna, community representatives and environmentalists for an "orderly exit" from fossil fuel extraction in the midlands.

  • That he is setting up a National Stakeholder Forum on Climate Action, modelled on the Brexit Forum and the National Economic Dialogue, to engage interest groups and other stakeholders in meaningful dialogue on the way forward.

  • That his Government has asked the Climate Advisory Council to advice what Ireland's fair share of the world's remaining carbon budget and on how fast Ireland has feasibly reach 100% renewable electricity.

  • And that by 2025 every school in Ireland will be a Solar School, with solar panels generating some of the electricity the school needs and selling any surplus to the national grid. That schools have been added to the list of buildings exempt from planning permission for solar panels and that community and farm buildings will be eligible for SEAI grants under an expanded version of their household solar PV scheme.



1) The UN Secretary General is hosting a Climate Action Summit for world leaders in New York next Monday, 23rd September "to boost ambition and accelerate actions to implement the Paris Agreement on Climate Change". World leaders have been invited to make announcements on how they are stepping up national climate action.

2) Last week Friends of the Earth Director Oisín Coghlan met the Taoiseach in advance of the UN Summit with other civil society representatives. As part of the discussion An Taoiseach asked what we would like to hear him say in New York. Friends of the Earth is now writing to the Taoiseach with the list of proposals in this press release.

3) At the last minute Oisín was asked to take the keynote slot at the IWEA conference last Thursday when Minister Richard Bruton wasn't able to attend. Oisin gave the speech that he'd like to hear Leo Varadkar give in New York:

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