The European Investment Bank’s decision to divest from fossil fuels

The European Investment Bank’s decision to divest from fossil fuels

The European Investment Bank (EIB) recently announced that it would be phasing out investment in fossil fuel companies by 2021. The EIB is the biggest public lender globally and the move was celebrated by those within the banking industry and the environmental movement. It sends a clear message that markets are moving away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energies, with the EIB positioning itself as the leading ‘Climate Bank’. The President-elect of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, commended the transition and, last week, the European Parliament declared a ‘Climate Emergency’. Two moves that signal Europe aims to take the reigns as leader of climate action, as other world powers shirk the responsibility. 

Cutting financial flows to fossil fuel companies is a necessary step in the transition to clean and renewable energy. Less money in the bank for fossil fuel companies means that less exploration projects will secure funding and less oil rigs, coal plants and fracking-infrastructure built. As Bill McKibben outlines in his essay; “Money Is the Oxygen on Which the Fire of Global Warming Burns”, this will ultimately lead to fossil fuels being kept in the ground. McKibben, who is the founder of 350.org, has long been campaigning for divestment in the fossil fuel industry. He outlines the three financial sectors that need to divest; banking, asset management, and insurance. Once the purse-strings are cut and these companies have to self-fund to insure themselves, they will not be able to survive on financial reserves for long. There are also Government subsidies to think about, but that would require a whole other article. 

The financial industry is conservative and calculated in nature, and when it begins to make large changes the whole world takes heed. To stop investing in fossil fuels is to signal the beginning of the end. Closer to home, AIB in Ireland is positioning itself as the ‘Green Bank’ of Ireland. It has launched a ‘Green Bond Framework’ whereby it will greatly increase the investment available for green projects, and it has also introduced a lower green mortgage rate for houses that meet the highest energy-efficiency standards. 

Critics of the EIB’s decision to move away from fossil fuels have said that 2021 is too far away and that in the meantime, new fossil fuel projects can be funded which would lock the European Union into a ‘dirty future’. Angela Merkel also voiced her concerns that the EIB would not fund natural gas projects as a transition fuel on the way to renewables. This is certainly the beginning of something – but it remains to be seen how long it takes to reach the end. 

 

Photo: Ian Sharp (Flickr)

 

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The European Investment Bank’s decision to divest from fossil fuels

The European Investment Bank (EIB) recently announced that it would be phasing out investment in fossil fuel companies by 2021. The EIB is the biggest public lender globally and the move was celebrated by those within the banking industry and the environmental movement. It sends a clear message that markets are moving away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energies.

Why Ireland should have its own Green New Housing Deal

Why Ireland should have its own Green New Housing Deal

Last week, Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez brought the ‘Green New Deal for Public Housing Act’ to US congress. This is the first overt action to bring the Green New Deal to life since the resolution was released this February. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, the Green New Deal is essentially a ten-year plan to greatly reduce US emissions through mass deployment of renewable energies, huge investment in green infrastructure (particularly public transport) and the creation of numerous ‘green jobs’. The deal places great emphasis on addressing the climate crisis and social justice crisis as dual-issues, and also endeavours to provide free Medicare and Education for All.

The Green New Deal for Public Housing Act specifically focuses on enhancing over one million units of public housing through zero-carbon upgrades. The bill allocates over $172 billion US dollars to fund this project and it would create roughly 240,000 jobs every year. According to research by The Nation, this would be the equivalent of taking 1.2 million cars off the road in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Not only would it reduce emissions, it would also create safer and healthier neighbourhoods and boost employment in poorer areas. The Act is extraordinary in its scope and ambition, and some critics have dismissed it as being ‘too unrealistic’. This commentary is to be expected in the face of any trillion-dollar plan, but truthfully, the whole world should be taking note. Most of all, Ireland. 

Ireland has been getting a lot of bad press for poor performance on climate change, and rightly so. We have missed our emissions targets three years running and currently have the third-highest emissions per capita in the EU. This trend shows no signs of reversing any time soon. Ireland is also suffering from a housing crisis, in case you haven’t heard (or have been living under a rock – I’d say you can get a good price for it on rent.ie). An extreme deficit in housing within the capital has driven prices to an all-time high, forcing people to rent indefinitely or move further and further out – often to locations where public transport is poor (read: non-existent) and where owning a car is a necessity. This results in an inexhaustible list of problems including financial insecurity, deteriorating physical and mental health and ultimately, homelessness. 

As of September 2019, there were 10,397 people without homes in Ireland. Over one-third of these are children. This is unacceptable and is ultimately the result of a broken housing system. We need more public housing. We need an Irish Green New Housing Act. This would be a project undertaken by the Irish Government whereby zero-carbon, energy efficient public housing would be deployed and upgraded over the next ten years, providing numerous jobs in the process. Green communities would be created with adequate links to an improved public transport network that runs completely off renewables. Imagine. 

Imagine an Ireland where issues of public interest are favoured over the interests of private entities. Where we provide for our people and our environment. These are issues that cannot be kept separate and it has long been known that under a climate crisis it will be the poorest and already vulnerable who will be the first hit, and the worst hit. Here is a plan to address two of our most pressing issues in tandem. As the Emerald Isle, let’s truly take up the mantle of being ‘green’ and become a leader on these issues.

 

Photo by Patrick on Twitter

 

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Single-Use Plastics levies: The Good, the Bad, and The Ugly

Single-Use Plastics levies: The Good, the Bad, and The Ugly

Last week the Minister for the Environment Richard Bruton announced that the Irish Government would be introducing a number of levies aimed at reducing single-use plastics. Two of the most notable levies being a ‘latte levy’ on disposable cups of between 10 and 25 cents, and a plastic bag levy increase of 3 cents on the current levy of 22 cents. This is good news – so why has there been a murmur of controversy around this announcement?

 

The Good:

Plastic waste is a huge environmental issue and the fact that the Government is noticing and making moves to remediate this is a good thing. Ireland is the top plastic waste producer in Europe, with each person producing on average 61kg of plastic waste per year. Recycling, once hailed as a cure that would allow us to continue buying as much plastic as we liked so long as it went in the green bin, has gravely disappointed in its reality. It is estimated that only 30% of plastic waste within the EU is recycled. Seeing as this is inherently a problem of overconsumption, levies such as the plastic bag tax are to be welcomed as they discourage production in the first place. 

 

The Bad: 

The Environment Minister has been criticized for delaying action on installing a plastic bottle deposit and return scheme in Ireland, a scheme which the Green Party have been pushing for. This would involve paying an upfront ‘deposit’ on single-use plastic bottles and once you dropit to a recycling centre, you get that deposit back. This system is currently in use in many countries across Europe and has been successful in reducing waste. This, in combination with the levies already put forward, would help to redeem Ireland’s environmental reputation.  

Another issue is that the latte levy has left small coffee shops feeling disadvantaged as large coffee chains like Costa and Starbucks will find it much easier to pay such a levy. The announcement also left certain environmentalist groups frustrated as it doesn’t target the bulk of the problem. The proposed levies don’t tackle the items that are responsible for the majority of plastic in the ocean; fishing nets. It is estimated that almost half of ocean plastic is from discarded fishing nets and if this is to be tackled it means tighter regulations on fishing activities and reduced consumption of seafood. 

 

The Ugly: 

Plastic is a ‘hot topic’ at the moment and the Irish government knows that. It is much easier to introduce a few levies on bags and cups than to acknowledge the large elephant in the room – Ireland’s inaction on climate change. Ireland is consistently ranked as a ‘climate laggard’ and has the third highest emissions per capita in the EU. A latte levy won’t even begin to fix this, and installing a Liquified Natural Gas terminal in the West of Ireland that uses fracked gas certainly won’t. Yes, even slight progress on environmental issues is positive and should be commended, but slight progress is nowhere near the rate of change that is needed on environmental issues right now.

 

Photo by Michael on flickr

 

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The Kakapo bird: a conservation success story

The Kakapo bird: a conservation success story

Firstly, let me get one thing out of the way; Kakapo are awesome. I may be biased by the fact that they are my favourite animal but just take one look at these giant, flightless birds and tell me they’re not great. These New-Zealanders are packed full of character (yes, I am referring to THAT Stephen Fry documentary) and rumour has it their feathers smell like the inside of an old violin case?! One could say that they’re the Regina George of the bird world. Chances are you may not have heard that the Kakapo had a record breeding season in 2019 and I am here to tell you this because quite frankly, it is bloody brilliant news. For the first time in over 70 years their numbers have reached over 200. This is an amazing feat considering that back in the mid-1970’s it was thought that this charismatic bird was extinct. 

I understand that it is important to be aware of the major injustices and problems in the world, especially in the environmental realm where much seems to go ignored by those in power, but let’s take a moment and appreciate this. In a world where we constantly hear of species number dwindling it is heartwarming to hear such tales of success. The major reason Kakapo numbers dwindled was invasive species brought over by European settlers to New Zealand. As the kakapo is flightless and nests on the ground, it was easy prey for the invasive stoats and rats. Invasive species are sometimes overlooked as a cause of extinction, but actuality it is one of the biggest culprits in terms of decimating animal populations. It is particularly problematic on islands such as New Zealand, which has no naturally occurring mammalian predators except for bats. 

Through the creation of predator-free islands New Zealand has been able to foster the recovery of populations such as the Kakapo and it has the ambitious plan of being ‘Predator free by 2050’. The recovery of the Kakapo population is a testament to the altruistic capabilities of humans. The people who have worked on this project have given up their time, and often money, to help in the recovery of a bird that most of the world has never heard of. The job of a kakapo ranger is not an easy one, with early rises and long days of trekking to track down individuals – and sometimes going days without seeing even one. These people are incredibly dedicated and don’t work for the acclaim, they simply want to do their part. 

An old adage in conservation is that ‘humans are awful and ruin everything’. I don’t agree and thinking this way is not going to help anything. Yes, some humans do cause untold damage and genuinely don’t seem to care about the natural world and yes sadly, it is these individuals who seem to hold many of the powerful political and economic positions. However, I honestly believe that the majority of people want to do good and just need to be educated on how to do so. There are already some wonderful people out there doing some wonderful things that we just don’t hear about through our media. 

So I want to thank the Kakapo Recovery team for quietly working away over the decades. The revival of the Kakapo represents so much more than a conservation success story. It represents our capacity for altruism and empathy. Our capacity to right our wrongs. The Kakapo is not an ecologically necessary nor an economically profitable species and in a world where everything seemingly needs an economic justification to exist, this is important. It reminds us of one of the earliest lessons we are taught in morality: do something not for the sake of profit or congratulations, do it because it is the right thing to do. 

If you would like to donate to Kakapo Recovery you can do so here: https://www.doc.govt.nz/kakapo-donate 

 

 

Photo: Jack Osborne via Flickr

 

 

Browse more stories below or sign up to our newsletter to get our top news straight to your inbox.

Book Review: Klein Gifts Us With Tools to Unite Climate Action in ‘On Fire’

Naomi Klein is as accessible as ever as she dissects the scientific and economic jargon of climate change, while simultaneously injecting empathy and passion in her fight to hold corporations and fossil fuel companies accountable. On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal, has the possibility to unite the movement once again and inspire action on a scale that humanity has never accomplished before.

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