The first Global Divestment day was held on Feb 13-14th and thousands of people took to the streets in Dublin and across the world demanding that institutions do what is necessary to avert climate change and divest from fossil fuels. Dearbhla Lenehan and UCD Eco Soc explain what this day is all about and how it affects us all.
Global Divestment day was held worldwide on Feb 13th and 14th to demand that governments and institutions take immediate and bold action to confront climate change and fossil fuel expansion. The purpose of the Dublin march was to introduce the idea of divestment to Ireland. Divestment is about removing investments in the 200 largest fossil fuel companies and reinvesting this money in renewable and sustainable technology. The was not about cutting out fossil fuel use completely, but demanding that no more money is invested in fossil fuel expansion and instead to invest in sustainable, renewable energy for the future.
Global energy consumption is set to triple by the end of this century. With fossil fuel supplies depleting we need a new energy supply. The EU, Russia, USA, Japan, China, South Korea and India have all agreed to invest in nuclear power as their future energy source. They are currently constructing an experimental nuclear fusion plant in France called ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) following from the success of a smaller reactor model called JET (Joint European Torus). After the expected success of ITER, DEMO (Demonstration Power Plant) will be built in 2023 and then the first commercial nuclear fusion power plant will be built and generate energy from 2050. Nuclear fusion is different to the current nuclear fission techniques used in nuclear power plants. Nuclear fusion creates around 4 times more energy than fission but the process still produces radioactive by-products. These by-products are not as harmful as those created through the fusion process but they still pose a serious hazard to the environment and human health.
The Irish Government is aware that fossil fuel supplies are depleting and so are investing in gas exploration for future energy generation. In 2011, oil and gas companies were granted licenses from the Department of Energy and Natural Resources to explore for commercial gas in the Northwest Carboniferous Basin (also known as the Lough Allen Basin) and the Clare Basin. The Lough Allen basin covers an area of 8000 square kilometres and includes parts of Monaghan, Cavan, Donegal, Fermanagh, Leitrim, Mayo, Sligo, Tyrone and Roscommon. The Clare Basin encompasses parts of Clare, Cork, Limerick and Kerry. To extract gas from these areas, Tamboran Resources and Enegi Oil Plc wish to use hydraulic fracturing (fracking) which drills and injects fluids composed of water, sand and chemicals at a high pressure to fracture shale rock and release natural gas. Unfortunately, in the U.S. where this technique is used regularly to extract gas, there have been cases where chemicals and contaminants have leaked into the ground water supply, affecting the local drinking water and the surrounding environment. At present the Irish Government has agreed not to issue further licences until an EPA-led research study on the ‘Environmental Impacts of Unconventional Gas Exploration and Extraction’ is completed and considered. This study is due for publication in late 2016.
At the end of this year, world leaders will meet in Paris to discuss a global climate deal. Governments both at home and abroad are aware that fossil fuel production is depleting. The global divestment campaign wants to mandate our leaders to take real climate action at this meeting before it is too late. Unless action is taken to avert a climate crisis governments will continue to invest money in climate damaging energy production projects, including fracking and nuclear power. The Global Divestment campaign urges them to redirect this money into more sustainable, cleaner, renewable energy sources. Now is the time to take action before it is too late.