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Ireland on Path to Become First Country to Divest from Fossil Fuels
The Dail, Ireland's lower house of parliament, passed a bill Thursday which would require the country to divest its $10 billion fund from oil, coal, natural gas and peat "as soon as practicable." The bill will now move to the country's upper house, the Seanad, where it is expected to pass easily, most likely in September.
"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," Thomas Pringle, the independent member of parliament who introduced the bill, told The Guardian. "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."
Ireland's fund currently holds more than €300 million in 150 fossil fuel companies. The bill defines a fossil fuel company as any company that makes 20 percent or more of its money from exploring, extracting or refining fossil fuels, but offers an exception for Irish companies that promise to move away from greenhouse-gas emitting fuels, The Guardian reported.
Ireland's decision is a major victory for the fossil fuel divestment movement, which has persuaded universities, pension funds, insurers, churches and cities like New York to divest trillions of dollars, but has never prompted an entire country to act before.
Norway came the closest when a 2015 parliamentary vote divested it from coal specifically. Its central bank has also recommended that it divest its sovereign wealth fund from oil. But no country has divested from all fossil fuels, according to NPR.
"Ireland's decision to divest from fossil fuels staggers me. It's one of the landmark moments in what has become the largest campaign of its kind in history. Such thanks to all who fought," divestment movement leader and 350.org founder Bill McKibben tweeted Thursday.
The bill's passage is also a major step for Ireland, which ranked last among EU countries in the 2018 Climate Change Performance Index.
"Ireland has gained a reputation internationally in recent years as a 'climate laggard' ... so the passing of this Bill is good news but has to mark a significant change of pace on the issue," Éamonn Meehan, the executive director of the Irish Catholic organization Trócaire that campaigned for the bill said in a statement reported by NPR.
Now, Ireland is moving into a position to lead other countries in fighting climate change.
"Governments will not meet their obligations under the Paris agreement on climate change if they continue to financially sustain the fossil fuel industry. Countries the world over must now urgently follow Ireland's lead and divest from fossil fuels." bill drafter Gerry Liston of Global Legal Action Network told The Guardian.
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By Jake Johnson
As a growing number of states move to pass laws that would criminalize pipeline protests and hit demonstrators with years in prison, an audio recording obtained by The Intercept showed a representative of a powerful oil and gas lobbying group bragging about the industry's success in crafting anti-protest legislation behind closed doors.
Speaking during a conference in Washington, DC in June, Derrick Morgan, senior vice president for federal and regulatory affairs at the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), touted "model legislation" that states across the nation have passed in recent months.
AFPM represents a number of major fossil fuel giants, including Chevron, Koch Industries and ExxonMobil.
"We've seen a lot of success at the state level, particularly starting with Oklahoma in 2017," said Morgan, citing Dakota Access Pipeline protests as the motivation behind the aggressive lobbying effort. "We're up to nine states that have passed laws that are substantially close to the model policy that you have in your packet."
Big Oil is now using its political power to try and criminalize protests of oil & gas infrastructure.— Friends of the Earth (@foe_us) August 19, 2019
"This legislation has potential to punish public participation and mischaracterize advocacy protected by the First Amendment."https://t.co/bmiHjONEhy
The audio recording comes just months after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law legislation that would punish anti-pipeline demonstrators with up to 10 years in prison, a move environmentalists condemned as a flagrant attack on free expression.
"Big Oil is hijacking our legislative system," Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network said after the Texas Senate passed the bill in May.
As The Intercept's Lee Fang reported Monday, the model legislation Morgan cited in his remarks "has been introduced in various forms in 22 states and passed in ... Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, South Dakota, and North Dakota."
"The AFPM lobbyist also boasted that the template legislation has enjoyed bipartisan support," according to Fang. "In Louisiana, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the version of the bill there, which is being challenged by the Center for Constitutional Rights. Even in Illinois, Morgan noted, 'We almost got that across the finish line in a very Democratic-dominated legislature.' The bill did not pass as it got pushed aside over time constraints at the end of the legislative session."
Many of the state bills restricting the right to protest have been "drafted by companies and passed through groups like ALEC, the secretive group of corporate lobbyists trying to rewrite state laws to benefit corporations over people." @greenpeaceusa https://t.co/ZxpTjWdrwT— Stand Up To ALEC (@StandUpToALEC) May 6, 2019
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.