Ireland becomes first country to divest from fossil fuels

Christopher Davidson
July 13, 2018

The Republic of Ireland took a crucial step Thursday toward becoming the first country in the world to divest from fossil fuels.

Ireland committed to divesting public funds from fossil fuel companies on Thursday after parliament passed a bill forcing the 8.9 billion euro (US$10.4 billion) Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) to withdraw money invested in oil, gas and coal.

Indirect investment in fossil fuels is also ruled out, unless there is no more than 15 per cent of an asset invested in a fossil fuel undertaking.

The fund, worth around US$10.4 billion, has an exposure of nearly US$400 million (300 million euro) to the fossil fuel industry, which it will have to eliminate after the upper house-the Seanad-passes the legislation, which will probably take place in September.

The Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill, which has been brought forward by Independent Deputy Thomas Pringle, is meant to help meet Ireland's climate change commitments, which were agreed to in the Paris Agreement.

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"Let us show the Irish public and the worldwide community that we are ready to think and act beyond narrow short-term and vested interests", he told his fellow lawmakers, "and will take the opportunities that lie ahead of us to bring in real change". For instance, the country ranked dead last among European Union member states in the 2018 Climate Change Performance Index, an annual study assessing national climate policies, and nestled comfortably in the bottom quarter worldwide, just seven spaces above the U.S.

The world's top oil, gas and coal companies face rising pressure from investors to shift to cleaner energy and renewables to meet global greenhouse gas emissions cut targets.

Ireland may become the first country to fully exit fossil fuels, but it is not the first one to consider the move.

The government will give its opinion about that broader divestment in October.

Earlier this year, New York City announced its plans to divest its reported $189 billion public pension funds from fossil fuels over the next five years.

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