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Ireland Is the First Country in the World to Divest From Fossil Fuels

Why Global Citizens Should Care
States and countries around the world have to drastically reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to achieve the Paris climate agreement’s goal of keeping temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels. Ireland’s commitment is a sign that the United Nations’ goal of a clean energy future is possible. You can take action on this issue here.

The Republic of Ireland will become the world’s first country to completely divest from fossil fuels, reports the Guardian.

A bill was passed this week with all-party support in the lower house of parliament to sell off all of the sovereign state’s investments in fossil fuel companies — including coal, oil, gas, and peat — as soon as possible, which is anticipated to be completed within five years.

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“The [divestment] movement is highlighting the need to stop investing in the expansion of a global industry which must be brought into managed decline if catastrophic climate change is to be averted,” said Thomas Pringle, the independent member of parliament who introduced the bill, in the report. “Ireland by divesting is sending a clear message that the Irish public and the international community are ready to think and act beyond narrow short term vested interests.

The timing, some say, couldn’t be more prescient.

“Just last month Ireland was ranked the second-worst European country for climate action, so the passing of this bill is good news,” Éamonn Meehan, executive director of international development charity Trócaire, which pushed for the bill, told the Guardian. “But it has to mark a significant change of pace on the issue.”

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The decision will effectively rid the European nation of holdings valued at more than $370 million, according to Trócaire, reported NPR.

According to the bill, a fossil fuel company is defined as any that derives 20% or more of its revenue from exploration, extraction, or refinement of fossil fuels, the Guardian reported. But the bill allows for future investment in Irish fossil fuel companies if they move toward renewable energy.

The announcement is the latest in a series of actions that illustrate Ireland’s desire to advance its climate stewardship. In 2015, Ireland successfully co-chaired complex negotiations on new sustainable development goals with the UN.

Looking forward, Ireland’s Global Footprint to 2025 outlined a high-level commitment to spend 0.7% of national income on development assistance by 2025.

"We must be very clear; people are dying today as a direct result of climate change through the increasingly frequent and intense disasters, through increased hunger, increased water scarcity," Pringle said in the NPR report, "and significantly more will die or be forced into displacement if there is not a radical change in direction."