Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill 2016: First Stage

I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to amend the National Treasury Management Agency (Amendment) Act 2014 instructing the Agency to divest the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund, currently under the remit of the Agency, of its assets in fossil fuel companies within five years of the commencement of this Act to precipitate a timely decarbonisation process in line with Ireland's climate change commitments under Article 2 of the Paris Agreement.

We are coming up to the first anniversary of the signing of the Paris Agreement, which called for a global response to the threat of climate change in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty. Climate change must be fought on multiple fronts. One such front, as outlined in Article 2 of the Paris Agreement, relates to ensuring that finance flows are consistent with the pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development. My Bill seeks to ensure that Ireland's financial flows are consistent with action on climate change.

It instructs the National Treasury Management Agency, NTMA, to divest public money managed by the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund, ISIF, from fossil fuel companies. Currently, Ireland invests €133 million of taxpayers' money in global fossil fuel companies through the ISIF. Under the Bill, this money will be withdrawn over five years and the ISIF will be banned from future investments in the fossil fuel industry. Ireland must face up to the disproportionate role of fossil fuel companies in causing climate change. It is urgent that we participate in the global phasing out of fossil fuel exploration, extraction and combustion in a timely manner in order that we can meet the commitments set out in the Paris Agreement.

This is not just ethical financing; it is also responsible financing. Recent research commissioned by Trócaire shows that getting out of the fossil fuel industry makes financial sense for the ISIF as fossil fuel investments are becoming increasingly risky. Expert analysis shows that the fund lost €22 million last year and approximately €100 million over the past three years by investing money in the fossil fuel industry rather than in companies working for climate solutions.

Next week we will be discussing the Government's draft mitigation plan so it is timely to discuss fossil fuel divestment. I remind the Government of the overwhelming public support for this move. More than 10,000 people have signed Trócaire's petition over recent months which calls on the Government to stop investing in the fossil fuel industry, and 25 organisations and networks throughout the country have made a formal submission to the Government on the issue. Support is also growing internationally for divestment. More than 600 institutions globally, including major universities such as the University of Glasgow and Stanford University in the US and major cities such as Berlin, Copenhagen, Stuttgart, Oslo and Sydney, have divested their funds from fossil fuel companies. The Amalgamated Bank in the US is the first bank to announce divestment of all its fossil fuel assets, and many insurance companies are also offloading fossil fuel investments.

Ireland has taken similar moves before. In response to global calls, the Cluster Munitions and Anti-Personnel Mines Act 2008 was introduced, preventing the ISIF from investing in 19 companies on the basis of their work on cluster munitions. We would be the first State to divest its public money from fossil fuel companies and lead on the issue of climate change. I thank Trócaire for its hard work on this Bill and its public campaign on fossil fuel divestment. I look forward to working with everyone in the House as the Bill progresses through the Oireachtas.

Is the Bill opposed?

Question put and agreed to.

As this is a Private Members' Bill, Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members' time.

I move: "That the Bill be taken in Private Members' time."

Question put and agreed to.

The debate is hereby adjourned. The Bill will be taken on the next day in which Private Members' business is to be taken in accordance with Standing Order 147(4).