Two Disappointments Back to Back in Our Fight against Climate Change


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On Monday, 27th May, Seán Canney TD, Minister of State for Community Development, Natural Resources and Digital Development, granted permission for exploratory drilling for gas off the Kerry coast. This was a most disappointing development, and sheds light on this government’s true attitude towards climate change.

This Government has time and again stated its resolve to combat climate change and to reduce our carbon emissions; how can we do so, and pursue a policy of fossil fuel extraction at the same time? Upon taking stewardship of the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Minister Richard Bruton acknowledged that we require a revolution in the way live in order to secure our future. Yet it seems this Government has offered only rhetoric.

We must face the truth of global warming, and the inevitable climate catastrophe that is projected, if we do not now take reasonable measures to prevent it. At the very least, and at no additional cost or effort, we ought not to contribute further to the total quantity of carbon being released.

Minister Bruton framed this decision as being about energy security, but real energy security will only come through eliminating our dependence on fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable energy. The more we extract, the greater the totality being pumped into the air. The only way to avoid global warming is to keep the carbon in the ground: we certainly should not be opening up further sources of global warming. To what extent is it justified to pursue short term energy security at the expense of our environmental security in the future?

In the same week, Minister of State Canney further undermined the State’s ability to respond meaningfully to climate change. On 28th May, he attached a money message to the Petroleum and Other Minerals Development (Amendment) (Climate Emergency Measures) Bill which will delay or even halt its passage. The inclusion of a money message requires approval by Government for a Bill to proceed, something unlikely to happen given that it has thus far opposed been opposed by the Government.

The Climate Emergency Measure Bill was initially passed in the Dáil on 8th February 2018 with the overwhelming support of TDs: 78 to 48. Given this clear democratic expression, as well as our obligations under the Paris Agreement, there is simply no mandate for licensing offshore drilling in the Porcupine Basin. Until this Bill is debated, amended, and enacted, and the corresponding policy framework is established, any drilling ought to be delayed. To give consent beforehand, in order to evade whatever restrictions may end up in place, is an expression of profound cynicism towards the democratic process – we sincerely hope this has not been the Government’s motivation.

We must also acknowledge the profound injustice of this action both to the next generation, as well as to those countries most affected by global warming – often poorer countries who are least able to withstand the effects. We must make a choice about whether the material benefits in the short-term outweigh the material and moral sacrifices in the long run.

We are faced with great temptation in this moment, much as Christ was in the desert. The stones on the ground could have been bread for him if he had wanted it so: he had a choice, and he chose to leave the bread on the ground despite his hunger. Will we choose to leave the gas and oil in the earth despite our industrial thirst? “Man shall not live by bread alone” (Matthew 4:4)... nor can we do so by oil and gas.

John McGeady
OLA Justice Officer
5 June 2019