The last few weeks have seen an explosion in activity on the Irish climate activist movement. In the wake of the recent UN Climate Action Summit which took place in New York on September 23rd, the Irish government has faced ever increasing scrutiny from environmental activist groups and climate conscious citizens alike. STAND news sat down with Maeve O’Gorman, an activist from Not Here Not Anywhere (NHNA) to get her take on the current challenges activists are fighting for.
Leo Varadkar’s UN Climate Summit address briefly went into the Irish government’s climate policy plans. The plans, the Taoiseach said, included halting fossil fuel exploration in the Irish seas while continuing to explore for natural gas as a transition fuel. He also said the country would ring-fence carbon tax to invest in renewable energy and to look after those who might be affected through unemployment by a developing green economy.
However, the promises made by Leo were not deemed good enough by a majority of climate activists.
“By saying ‘oh we’re not going to explore for oil in Ireland’, this is amazing, but then you peel back half a layer on that and it’s complete greenwashing! The ban on fracking is only effective for 80% of the Irish seas. All the existing licences will remain.’’ By allowing corporations to hold onto their licenses, the 20% of the Irish seas not included in the ban will continue to be exploited for oil, Maeve explained.
‘’The government needs to stop fossil fuel exploration and tell other countries to stop. We are creating a demand for fracking and fossil fuel exploration but we just don’t have time for that!”
The thorn in the sides of Not Here Not Anywhere is that while Leo Varadkar says that oil exploration won’t be happening in Ireland, they continue to outsource oil and gas, and even intend to import it from the U.S via a Liquified Natural Gas Terminal, planned to be constructed on the West coast of Ireland. Shannon LNG, as it is known, will be an import terminal for fracked gas from the US. The gas will be shipped from the US, stored here, and will then be redistributed to various countries in the EU.
The project has been a major cause of contention in the Dail recently as the development faced opposition from both citizens and TDs. Why is it such an issue?
‘’There are environmental and health impacts from fracking. One of the main reasons we oppose it is that it is seen as a clean transition fuel that is less carbon intense. But actually when you frack for gas, it releases methane. Methane is at least 85 times more efficient at trapping heat in the atmosphere than CO2 released from burning coal. It is a dirty fossil fuel. The government banned fracking in Ireland but then go and import it and sell it as clean ‘’freedom fuel’’, said Maeve.
“All these wild claims being put out there that it is a clean energy are untrue. It is a fossil fuel. We know that 80% of fossil fuels needs to be kept in the ground in order to make sure we have any hope of stopping the climate warming to +1.5 degrees which will have catastrophic effects! Yet we are promoting exploration and use of fossil fuels abroad, and trying to hide it. What NHNA says is that we need to be against fracking wherever it is happening in the world, not just in Ireland.”
Last week in the Dail, an emergency meeting was called to discuss the issue of the Shannon LNG project after uproar from citizens and environmental groups over the steamrolling of the development plan. The government had no plans on having a public debate on the issue, which was seen as completely undemocratic by several activist groups. The environmental groups made their concerns known and Richard Bruton, the current Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment was forced to listen to statements from TDs opposing the plan. Only time will tell whether the concerns are taken seriously.
For more information, visit Stop Shannon LNG.
Photo by @NHNAireland on Twitter
Watch out Maeve O’Gorman interview down below!