Thursday, 26 September 2019

Questions (31)

Thomas Pringle


31. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Finance the status of the divestment of public funding in the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund from fossil fuel companies since the enactment of the Fossil Fuel Divestment Act 2018; his plans as part of the climate action plan 2019 to encourage the private sector to divest from fossil fuel companies and offer investors fossil free alternatives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38453/19]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

The Fossil Fuel Divestment Act 2018 provides for the divestment by the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) from fossil fuel undertakings, that is, companies that derive more than 20% of their revenues from the exploration, extraction and/or refinement of fossil fuels, within a practicable timeframe. Under the Act, fossil fuels are defined as oil, natural gas, peat, coal or any derivative thereof intended for use in the production of energy by combustion.

I am informed by ISIF that by early January 2019, it had sold approximately €72m worth of stocks and bonds in 38 individual fossil fuel undertakings.

Following enactment, ISIF published a Fossil Fuel exclusion list on its website, encompassing 148 companies in which it will not invest. The list is actively monitored and reviewed every 6 months, and so, in July 2019, was extended by a further 33 undertakings. As part of ongoing compliance with the Act, further divestments were therefore made.

The recently launched all of Government Action Plan contains a number of actions which aim to encourage private sector investment to assist in the low carbon transition. While I believe that questions relating to the Plan are more appropriately for answer by the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment, there are two actions which are broadly related to the Deputy’s query which do fall under the remit of the Department of Finance.

Under action 10, the State will be exploring options for non-Exchequer sources of financing climate action and green investments and assessing the international sustainable and green finance environment for other potential solutions. The direct focus of the action is investment, not necessarily divestment, but, nonetheless, is part of the broader green finance agenda.

Action 11, meanwhile, includes the promotion of the sustainable finance sector in Ireland, through the new strategy for international financial services, ‘Ireland for Finance’. It also includes engagement at EU level on sustainable finance proposals, particularly regarding establishment of a framework to facilitate sustainable investment by creating a unified classification system of environmentally sustainable economic activity. This will be an important step in advancing the connection between financial markets and private investors with a sustainability agenda.