Cop26: Ireland joins alliance to phase out oil and gas production

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In a highly significant move at Cop26 an alliance of countries has committed to phasing out production of oil and gas – and is to push for an international agreement on setting an end date for the exploration and extraction of the fossil fuels.

The launch of the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance (BOGA), which Ireland has joined, is a first in an international climate process which up to now has focused on limiting carbon emissions from fossil fuels rather than turning off the tap.

The 2015 Paris Agreement did not even mention fossil fuels, which generated 91 per cent of human-induced carbon emissions in 2020.

The alliance is seeking to curtail new licensing and undertake other measures to phase out oil and gas production in line with the Paris accord. Ireland joined Costa Rica; Denmark, France, Greenland, Quebec, Sweden, Wales, California and New Zealand in making the milestone announcement.

Minister for Climate Eamon Ryan said: “Ireland is leading the way in incentivising the transition to renewable energy and putting ourselves on a pathway to net zero, by legislating to keep fossil fuels in the ground. The decision we have made today sends a powerful message we are moving irrevocably away from fossil fuels towards a renewable future – both in Ireland and internationally.”

“Through the Climate Act 2021, Ireland has closed the door on new exploration activities for oil and gas. There is no longer a legal basis for granting new licences,” he underlined.

In line with Government policy of keeping fossil fuels in the ground, “we are also currently legislating to prohibit exploration for and extraction of coal, lignite and oil shale”, Mr Ryan confirmed.

Founding members “committing to end new concessions, licensing or leasing rounds, and promoting dialogue on the need for a managed and just phase-out”.

Mr Ryan added: “By prohibiting offshore oil and gas exploration, not only are we doing what we need to do to address climate change, we are also protecting our biodiversity which is intrinsically linked to climate change. There are other impacts. For example, scientific research demonstrates that the seismic activity that accompanies exploration and drilling has significant environmental effects.”

No future

Denmark and Costa Rica led the initiative. Denmark’s minister for climate, energy, and utilities Dan Jorgensen said that it was expensive for his country as it was the largest producer of oil in the EU but “we do it because we believe we need to”.

“There’s no future for oil and gas in a 1.5-degree world,” he added.

Costa Rica’s environment minister Andrea Meza said the alliance was about early movers showing courage, “backed by concrete actions”.

“It’s a big deal,” said Harro van Assel of Stockholm Environment Institute. “It’s the first time governments are committing together to phase down oil and gas production.”

Jerry Mac Evilly, head of polity at Friends of the Earth Ireland said Ireland’s participation in BOGA was hugely positive. “Ireland has taken important steps in recent years to phase out fossil fuels, from ending new oil and gas exploration, to banning onshore fracking. However with the new alliance we are now finally seeing domestic progress being reflected in foreign policy.”

He added: “The fossil fuel era must be brought to an end and this means leaving fossil fuels in the ground. This new alliance is an opportunity for Ireland to show leadership and end the reckless expansion of oil and gas at home and abroad.”

Meanwhile the Government has also announced €2 million to the Climate and Clean Air Coalition which aims at cutting short-lived pollutants including methane and to reduce air pollution – an initiative that has been led by US climate envoy John Kerry.

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