Trinity students celebrate as Ireland divests from fossil fuels

Ireland is the first country in the world to take the step

Trinity students are celebrating the Dáil’s decision today to divest from fossil fuels, making Ireland the first country in the world to take the step.

Dáil members voted in favour of the Fossil Fuel Divestment bill this afternoon, which bans the government’s Strategic Investment Fund from investing in fossil fuels. The bill , which was proposed by Thomas Pringle T.D., must now pass through the Seanad before it is enacted.

Fossil Free TCD attended the Dáil chamber today to watch the historic vote. Speaking to Trinity News, Fossil Free TCD member Áine O’Gorman explained that it is “a really good sign” that the bill was brought forward. “People are being listened to and TDs are starting to pull their socks up.”

Divestment means that the government’s Strategic Investment Fund is no longer permitted to invest funds in fossil fuel companies. O’Gorman explained that it is “a signal from the government that they don’t believe fossil fuel companies have a free licence to operate”.

In advance of today’s announcement, Fossil Free TCD worked with TDs and called on them to support the divestment bill. “It’s been a long road. It’s been a nice collaboration between students, young people, and larger NGOs and TDs,” O’Gorman explained.

Fossil Free TCD is a grassroots environmental campaign group led by Trinity students. It successfully campaigned for fossil fuel divestment in Trinity in 2016 before turning its attention to pushing the Dáil to divest. Trinity offloaded €6 million in fossil fuel company shares after the decision was taken by College to divest.

The Fossil Fuel Divestment bill was first presented to the Dáil in 2016 and provides for amending the National Treasury Management Agency Act 2014. It requires the agency to divest the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund of any assets in fossil fuel companies within five years. The Dáil intends for the bill to assist Ireland in its decarbonisation process, in line with the country’s climate change commitments in the Paris Agreement 2016.

The next step for Fossil Free TCD is to campaign for the government to pass the Climate Emergency Measures bill. The bill proposes a ban on granting licences for fossil fuel exploration and extraction in Ireland. According to O’Gorman, divestment “removes the social licence of fossil fuel companies”, while the Climate Emergency Measures bill will remove their legal licenses to operate in Ireland.

Earlier this week, Centre for Alternative Technology representative Paul Allen told the Oireachtas that Ireland could produce an efficient energy system with complete reliance on renewable energy sources. Allen spoke to the Oireachtas committee on climate action and environment as part of its review of the Climate Emergency Measures bill.

Speaking to the Oireachtas, Allen stated: “Our research shows that by making changes to our buildings, transport systems and behaviour, and by investing in a variety of renewable energy generation technologies…we can provide a reliable zero-carbon energy supply without negatively impacting on quality of life.”

Lauren Boland

Lauren Boland is the current News Editor of Trinity News. She is a Junior Sophister English Literature and Sociology student, and a former Assistant News Editor.