Thursday, 3 October 2019
Development of a Liquefied Natural Gas Facility in Ireland: Statements
I firstly thank the Ceann Comhairle for allowing this debate, under considerable pressure from both the campaigning activists and Deputy Bríd Smith, who has pushed this issue for the past week and longer.
If democracy is to mean anything at a time of climate crisis, an opportunity must be allowed to discuss and debate important policy developments. One of the most subtle and devious ways of making a bad decision is to pretend that no decision has really been made. The Government thought it would get these LNG projects on the projects of common interest, PCI, list without having to tell anyone they were putting them there. The Government is acting dishonestly and without regard to the common interest in recommending these projects. Ireland's energy policy is at a turning point. The Taoiseach has already admitted that we are laggards but things could get worse if these PCI projects are approved.
For years, we have been criticised by environmental organisations, the European Commission and other international bodies for our approach to climate action. When faced with mitigation targets, the Irish Government has negotiated loopholes, flexibilities and opt-outs. We have prostrated ourselves before our European partners time and time again, seeking extra time, resources and flexibility. We will miss our 2020 climate and energy targets by a mile and are also a long way off target to meet our 2030 targets. According to the SEAI, Ireland gets less than 10% of its total energy from renewable resources and the remaining 90% comes from fossil fuels, the bulk of which are imported. Meanwhile, the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Climate Action heard that the Government has not made any effort to lift the real obstacles to community-based renewable energy projects, such as solar energy on rooftops. While peat and coal are being phased out, there is no commitment to phasing out gas. In fact, both the Government and Gas Networks Ireland are planning to expand the gas infrastructure network and lock in more investment and carbon emissions to our energy system. The Corrib and Kinsale gas fields currently supply 65% of Ireland's natural gas needs and the supply will be completely exhausted within 15 years. We know that fossil energy, including gas, is the primary cause of global warming so why would we look for any more gas? Why would we want to invite the most polluting and climate destroying type of gas into our energy mix?
Ireland ratified the Paris Agreement in 2015 and committed to holding global warming to below 2°C and to pursue efforts to keep global warming at 1.5°C. As signatories to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, we are also obliged, as a developed nation, to commit to doing our fair share of global climate mitigation, consistent with our capabilities as a rich nation.
The Irish Government's response to date to our commitments under the Paris Agreement and EU directives has been nothing short of shameful. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, figures, Ireland's emissions are still higher than 1990 levels. We have failed miserably to make the transition to a low carbon economy and, not only that, we are continuing to head in the opposite direction. Experts have predicted that Ireland's national Paris-aligned CO2 quota will be exhausted by 2024. Adhering to this limit would be necessary if Ireland was to contribute its fair share to the global effort to reduce emissions. After that, there would have been an implied moral obligation for Ireland to urgently clean up all of its further CO2 and, ultimately, take carbon out of the atmosphere over the following decades.
If the Taoiseach was honest, instead of saluting the young climate strikers at the UN summit last week, he should have apologised for using up the atmosphere and leaving those strikers with nothing. It will be up to them to figure out solutions to clear up our mess.
It is the Government's intention to adopt the list of projects of common interest tomorrow. I ask the Minister to postpone and not to do that and allow proper debate in this House and at next Wednesday's sitting of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Climate Action where we will hear from experts who can play a key role in explaining exactly how this will impact us.
I want finally to highlight that this policy is not only an Irish one but one being pushed by the US fossil fuel industry which has more or less captured the Republican Party and the presidency of Donald Trump. US activists have travelled to Ireland this week to ask us not to import fracked gas because of the devastating impact it is having on communities across the US. Instead of taking on the role of the world climate leader, the US oil and gas companies must begin rapidly decarbonising to avoid runaway climate disaster. The United States is moving further and faster than any other country to expand oil and gas extraction. Not content with destroying the world with nuclear weapons and proxy wars, the US is also exporting a pollutant which will remain in the atmosphere, just like nuclear fall-out, more or less forever. We cannot decarbonise our economy with fracked gas and should not import it.