The Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill aims to mandate the divestment of the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) from fossil fuel companies. Introduced by Thomas Pringle TD, the private members bill was developed in partnership with Trócaire with legal support from GLAN. It proposes to amend the National Treasury Management (Amendment) Act 2014, instructing the Agency to divest the ISIF of its assets and to prohibit future investments in the industry. Debate on the general principles of the Bill will now take place on January 19th just as Ireland is due to publish its National Mitigation Plan on Climate Change. [Click here to view text of Bill or a briefing from Trócaire].
Climate change is proving to be a disruptive phenomenon contributing directly and indirectly to human rights violations particularly in poorer countries and vulnerable populations. Fossil fuels are one of the most important contributors to the Greenhouse gas emissions that are causing climate change. Evidence shows that up to 80% of known fossil fuel reserves cannot be burned if the Paris Climate Agreement, the landmark accord adopted by global leaders in 2015, is to be upheld. With fossil fuel companies currently planning to burn them all and search for more, calls for the divestment of public and private funds from these companies have gained momentum. Article 2 of the Paris Agreement includes a commitment by states to make finance flows consistent with action on climate change. According to the global campaign DivestInvest the scope of global fossil fuel divestment has doubled over the past 15 months, with institutions and individuals controlling $5.197 trillion in assets pledging to divest. In December 2016 Trinity College Dublin became the first university in Ireland to commit to divest its funds from investment in fossil fuels.
There is a precedent for divestment for ethical reasons. Ireland's Cluster Munitions Act (2008) prohibits public investments by the government in landmines and cluster munitions companies. Ireland's Strategic Investment Fund is an investment vehicle for the Irish Government, established in 2014, with a statutory mandate to invest on a commercial basis in a manner designed to support economic activity and employment in the State. The fund is managed by the National Treasury Management Agency and currently has holdings in numerous fossil fuel companies such as Exxon Mobil.