Fracking is not the way to reduce Ireland’s energy imports

Drilling

Ireland imports 89% of the energy it consumes during a year according to the last data release by Eurostat and 98% of this is supplied by fossil fuels. It is the 4th highest energy importer in the EU, after Malta, Luxembourg and Cyprus. Ireland’s high dependency on imported fossil fuels makes her vulnerable, because she has no control over her energy supply. Problems in other parts of the world can have a huge impact on Ireland.

However, drilling for local sources of gas or oil is the wrong answer. Using renewable energy sources, e.g. wind, solar, biomass and hydroelectric power, is the only way to reduce Ireland’s energy imports.

“We depend on fossil fuels to generate electricity, heat our homes and drive our cars. We need to change that and the right way is by generating energy from renewable sources”, said GEAI director Aedín McLoughlin. “Recent studies confirm that 80% of global fossil fuel reserves must be left in the ground to stop climate change and keep conditions on Earth suitable for humans. Fracking is not part of the solution, it is part of the problem.”

“Business as usual is not an option, we need to reduce our energy use and move towards a low carbon economy”, the GEAI director remarked.

”We have the solution at hand, we can power ourselves without endangering the planet. Ireland has great potential for wind, solar energy and biomass power. We are a small country but we can become a great example for the rest of the world. Our politicians must rise to the challenge and transform the current dull Climate Action Bill by including targets that will contribute towards a low-carbon world.”

Lima climate summit postpones key decisions until 2015

Lima Climate summit a disappointment

logo_Lima_climate_action_H-624x229The vital Lima climate summit was a disappointment.  Governments have to put individual climate pledges on table in the first half of next year, forming the foundations of the global climate agreement due in Paris next December.  However, many of the big issues that have plagued the talks for years were shirked and left for later. (Daily tck). Overall, this COP shows governments are disconnected from their people who are worried about climate risks and want a just transition to boost our economies, deliver jobs and strengthen public health.

On a positive note, negotiators  were in sync with the emerging consensus around the world that we need to phase out fossil fuels, illustrated by this phaseout being listed as one of the options in the draft outline for the Paris agreement. Governments acknowledged that they have a May deadline for turning that current list of options for the Paris agreement into a legal negotiating text. This means real work on the Paris agreement must get underway at the next session in February in Geneva.

The final result of Lima is a 4 page document (almost incomprehensible) approved unanimously 30 hours behind schedule, where all the countries commit themselves to reduce greenhouse emissions but without a fixed goal. The document they agreed is still groundbreaking in its scope, but it left a lot of work to be done ahead of the conference in Paris.

Feelings were mixed after the summit . “We were pleased to see around 100 countries support the goal of phasing out carbon emissions by mid-century. The goal’s inclusion in the draft text is a win for the fossil fuel divestment movement and will add momentum to that growing campaign. But action must begin now, not after decades of delay”, 350.org communications director Jamie Hennsaid told to The Guardian. Even countries like China, which recently acheived a climate agreement with the US, said that “we’re not very satisfied with the outcome, but we think it’s a balanced and nice document”.

Other leaders, like the former Irish president Mary Robinson showed a bigger disappointment: “not enough was done by countries who can afford to wait.  The leaders of countries whose people are suffering now, who are most at risk and have least resources to mobilise for protection compromised the most. Because they can’t afford to wait – they are negotiating for lives,” she stated.

Ireland didn’t play a great role in Lima.

The first day, the country was awarded “Fossil of the Day” after beign one of the four developed countries along with Austria, Belgium and Australia that haven’t contributed to the Green Climate Fund, designed to help developing countries to mitigate the consequences of climate change. Just a few days after Australia and Belgium announced their contributions to the Fund, but not Ireland.

The Minister for Environment, Alex White TD, hardly referred to the Fund during his speech at the Lima summit, just saying that “we are actively exploring all options for scaling up our mobilisation of climate finance, including in relation to the Green Climate Fund”, despite his pledge of Irish action on climate change.  Obviously, he had not been given a mandate to pledge any money.

Now the road is open for the 2015 Paris summit, where a final agreement must be reach if the world want to stops climate change.

How do we get off our Fossil Fuel addiction?

Sustainable Energy – without the hot air

The following is an extract of the synopsis of the excellent book by Professor David McKay

We have an addiction to fossil fuels, and it’s not sustainable. The developed world gets 80% of its energy from fossil fuels; Britain, 90%. And this is unsustainable for three reasons.

  • First, easily-accessible fossil fuels will at some point run out, so we’ll eventually have to get our energy from someplace else.
  • Second, burning fossil fuels is having a measurable and very-probably dangerous effect on the climate. Avoiding dangerous climate change motivates an immediate change from our current use of fossil fuels.
  • Third, even if we don’t care about climate change, a drastic reduction in Britain’s fossil fuel consumption would seem a wise move if we care about security of supply: continued rapid use of the North Sea oil and gas reserves will otherwise soon force fossil-addicted Britain to depend on imports.
How can we get off our fossil fuel addiction?

There’s no shortage of advice on how to “make a difference,” but the public is confused, uncertain whether these schemes are fixes or fig leaves. People are rightly suspicious when companies tell us that buying their “green” product means we’ve “done our bit.” They are equally uneasy about national energy strategy. Are “decentralization” and “combined heat and power,” green enough, for example? The government would have us think so. But would these technologies really discharge Britain’s duties regarding climate change? Are windfarms “merely a gesture to prove our leaders’ environmental credentials”? Is nuclear power essential?

We need a plan that adds up. The good news is that such plans can be made. The bad news is that implementing them will not be easy…

Download the full synopsis: Click here
Download the full book: Click here

David McKay is Professor of Physics, Cambridge University.

It’s Christmas… and Leitrim CDP time!

Leitrim County Councillors decide policies on fracking.  

Members of GEAI (in particular Aedín and Eddie) have been really busy this month. The first (pre) draft version of Leitrim County Development Plan, which was not at public consultation stage, was given by the officials to our Councillors and, needless to say, copies managed to find their way into the hands of some campaigners. We were dismayed – a whole section on “Hydrocarbon Exploration and Extraction” and the wording amounted to a pathway to fracking. No ban on fracking, emphasis on hydraulic fracturing rather than the whole life cycle of unconventional gas development and no mention of Health Impact Assessment (HIA).

What to do? Obviously, all campaigners against fracking would like to see a ban on the whole process. Many kept calling for this and said that nothing less would suffice. However, the Council officials, backed up by legal advice and the results of a court case in Mayo where a ban on mining was disallowed, insisted that the Plan could not include a straightforward ban.
So – members of GEAI and others went about the situation in a different way.

Campaigners insisting on a ban were asked to research the issue and come up with a way to include a complete ban in the Plan.
An alternative view was that if a ban could be included, that would be great. However, if a ban could NOT be included or could be overturned in the future by a Minister, policies had to be put in place that would, as much as possible, safeguard communities and the environment from any adverse impacts of Unconventional Gas Exploration or Extraction (UGEE).

 This major task was taken on – the background to the Development Plan was researched and a paper was produced that summarised the background to the situation in Ireland at the moment regarding shale gas and made sure everything relevant was included in the introductory section; various people and organisations were consulted and policies were then worded that, in the view of those involved, went as far as possible to prevent any UGEE projects taking place.

Information sessions and discussions were held with Councillors to make sure that they understood and agreed with what was being proposed.
The main policies proposed in the paper can be summarised as follows:

  • Precautionary principle on all proposals for UGEE projects/operations (this includes preparatory work and deep drilling) where risks are not “determined with sufficient certainty”.
  • Comprehensive HIA on national policy and on local UGEE proposals.
  • No UGEE projects/operations unless “it is scientifically and credibly demonstrated that those projects can be undertaken sustainably whilst also fully protecting the environment and human health”.

Constant contact was kept with Councillors from all parties throughout the process. The paper was also scrutinised by Council Officials.  Our understanding is that all the policies suggested may not be accepted (for various reasons) but significantly, a Health Impact Assessment may now be included. The final draft will be debated by Leitrim County Council on 16th January and will then go forward for public consultation.

The Public will have until end March 2014 to make submissions on the draft Plan.

Full text of submitted paper CLICK HERE

EPA Terms of Reference “Amended and Strengthened”

Terms of Reference of EPA research study on Unconventional Gas Exploration and Extraction (UGEE)

Making your voice heard matters!  In response to over 1,300 submissions, a ‘Health Expert’ is now on the Steering Committee for the research study.  The final Terms of Reference (ToR) for the EPA study were published on 22nd November. There are many amendments to the draft version, indicating the high quality and impact of the submissions.
Significant changes to the Terms of Reference include:

1. Human Health

• A new section has been added to the ToR to clarify and clearly define the scope of the proposed research in relation to Human Health.
• A Health expert has been invited onto the Steering Committee.
• The potential role of Health Impact Assessment in regulation of UGEE projects/operations is to be studied and recommendations made towards developing a protocol in the island of Ireland context.

2. Life Cycle of UGEE

• The full life-cycle of hydraulic fracturing activities, as well as off-site and other developments, is to be included in the study.
• The Key Research Questions have been amended to:

  • Can UGEE projects/operations be carried out in the island of Ireland whilst also protecting the environment and human health?
  • What is ‘best environmental practice’ in relation to UGEE projects/operations?”

• The cumulative environmental impacts arising from the entire lifecycle of UGEE projects/operations will be compared with those from other energy sources (including renewables).
• With regard to impacts, the assessment should take into account commercially probable scenarios.
• The Revised ToR now has a specific requirement to take account of the Irish context for references and comparisons to UGEE experience in other countries.

3. Water and Chemicals

• The Revised ToR have been extended to include surface waters and implications for local, regional and national resources, the water requirements for UGEE projects/operations is to be evaluated as well as groundwater and surface water resource availability.
• The Final Report should include a comprehensive list of all chemicals known to have been used in UGEE projects/operations.
• If chemical-free fracking is included in the research, it should be clearly pointed out where and for how long such methods have been used on a commercial basis, stating whether there are any peer-reviewed studies into the impacts associated with these methods to the environment and human health.

4. Monitoring

• A study on Air Quality monitoring requirements is to be included.
• The research will assess the concept of the monitoring to be carried out by State agencies versus by industries.

Full Terms of Reference document

“What You Said and how We Responded” – EPA responses to Public Consultation Submissions

Synopsis of Responses with Comments by AMcL

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