Belfast Telegraph

Taoiseach under fire for allowing gas exploration in Irish waters

Leo Varadkar was speaking at the UN’s climate conference in New York.

Leo Varadkar (Liam McBurney/PA)
Leo Varadkar (Liam McBurney/PA)

By Aoife Moore, PA

Leo Varadkar has been criticised for his announcement that the Government will still allow gas exploration in Irish waters.

Speaking on Monday at the UN’s climate conference in New York, the Taoiseach said he would be informing world leaders that although Ireland had banned fracking, it would still allow exploring for natural gas.

The Fine Gael leader said: “We have committed in our climate action plan that we’ve banned fracking, we’ve divested from fossil fuels, the decision that we’ve taken that any new revenue raised from carbon taxes will be reinvested into climate action, new money for new projects, over and above what we’ve committed to already.

“I’ll also be informing the UN, after a request from (climate minister Richard Bruton) and I, we’ve received advice from our climate advisory council and they recommended a change in policy when it comes to exploration, recommending that we end exploration for oil in Irish water but continue to explore for natural gas because that is a transition fuel that we’re going to need for the next few decades.”

Mr Varadkar also rejected claims by Solidarity TD Ruth Coppinger that he was “showboating” at the UN because the Government’s policies do not go far enough in responding to the climate emergency.

“I would totally reject that. The fact we’ve taken these decisions such as ploughing the money from carbon tax back into climate action – whether it’s retrofitting buildings, renewable energy – that’s a very serious commitment,” he said.

“We’re one of the first countries in the world to start phasing out exploration for oil and gas because we’re committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.

“Some will say we’re not going far enough, others will say we’re going too far, but that’s politics.

“We have no credibility asking them (larger countries like the US and Brazil) to take climate action if we’re not willing to do it ourselves. I am determined in what we should do as a country is get on a trajectory to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, then we can talk to other countries about what they can do.”

Mr Varadkar added that the initial idea the Government floated of paying any money raised from carbon taxes back to households is “possible”

“However, like the water conservation grant it is quite expensive to administer,” he said.

Irish Solidarity–People Before Profit TD Brid Smith said the Taoiseach’s announcement that he intends to phase out oil exploration is “too little, too late” given that his Government has already issued licences to allow exploration up to 2035 and possibly beyond.

“This is just an attempt to cover up the obvious hypocrisy involved in raising carbon taxes on ordinary people while allowing Exxon Mobil and others look for more oil and gas we can’t ever use if we are serious about limiting global temperature increases.

“This year alone they have issued more licences that are operable until 2035.

“When does the Taoiseach intend to ban fossil fuel exploration?”

A spokesman for the Irish Offshore Operators’ Association (IOOA) said the group would be seeking a meeting with the Government after the announcement.

“IOOA is looking forward to seeing the full detail of the proposals to be outlined in the Taoiseach’s speech at the Climate Action Summit this evening,” he said.

“In particular we look forward to receiving the exact detail of the proposed implementation of today’s announcement regarding future exploration in Ireland.

“Our members remain committed to Ireland’s efforts to transition to renewable energy, however energy security for Ireland is an important part of that process and we will seek a meeting with Government in relation to the matter in the coming weeks.”

PA

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