Permitting commercial LNG would be "a fatal betrayal" of climate obligations, FoE warns Minister Ryan

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Friends of the Earth letter to Minister Ryan lays out why a "more fossil fuels" approach to energy security is outdated, unfounded and unnecessar

Friends of the Earth wrote to Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan today (Tuesday 18) to warn him that preventing lock-in to new fossil fuel infrastructure “goes to the very root” of his party’s position in Government and urged him to clarify that the energy security proposals he is due to bring to Cabinet in the coming weeks will not permit the development of a commercial Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal in Ireland. The four-page letter details the reasons why commercial LNG is the wrong path on both energy security and climate pollution grounds and follows media reports that the Minister was considering a u-turn on long-standing Green Party policy on LNG.

Commenting, Friends of the Earth chief executive Oisín Coghlan said:

“This is a red line for us. Permitting commercial LNG would be a fatal betrayal of Ireland’s legally binding climate obligations.

“Our concern since the beginning of the energy security review is that it would discount climate obligations and focus on more fossil fuels regardless of the impact on polluting emissions. That has been officialdom’s default analysis for decades, ensure supply first and reduce demand and pollution later. But it is a deeply flawed approach and we expect better from Minister Ryan, which is why his remarks on commercial LNG last week were so concerning.

This ‘more supply first’ approach is flawed for a whole host of reasons, according to Friends of the Earth

“We now have twin imperatives, energy security and climate security, and the answer to both is to get off fossil fuels as fast as possible, not to allow fossil fuel companies to build new pipelines and sell more gas”, Mr Coghlan continued.

“There is now a legal imperative to live within the binding pollution limits set by the Dáil last year. That can’t be cast aside because it’s suggested commercial LNG will have lower upfront costs than a state-backed strategic gas reserve.

“It would be simply unacceptable if new polluting infrastructure like LNG were permitted, accompanied by a vague and general statement that they will have to operate within our overall pollution limits. At some point those binding limits must bite and that moment is now.

“Concerns about the upfront cost of a state-backed gas reserve are misguided because officials aren’t considering the full cost of permitting the development of commercial LNG. Gas companies want to sell more gas and not to just act as a reserve for the state. Any cost-benefit analysis should apply a carbon price of at least €100 a tonne to likely total LNG sales. That would begin to be a fair comparison."

Commenting, Friends of the Earth Head of Policy Jerry Mac Evilly said:

“In the supply-first approach to energy security that is being promoted by some, the Government looks to pump up supply to chase expected demand growth without pausing to consider what that increased supply is for. Questions about demand reduction and pollution control are long-fingered.

“But real energy security is not about chasing supply, it's about balancing supply and demand. All the research shows that reducing demand is the cheapest and most reliable way to increase security. And we have to reduce our gas use this decade if we are to stay within our binding pollution limits. It’s also about being clear on the risks - Government must assess the risks of fracked gas for communities in the US and for communities in Ireland faced with a polluting gas-filled terminal on their doorstep.

“You can be sure the companies promoting the idea of commercial LNG are betting Ireland will not decrease our gas use in line with your climate obligations. They are hoping Ireland misses our targets on pollution. They want to sell more gas to power more and more data centres for example; data centres that mostly run social media algorithms pushing overconsumption.

“It is the Minister’s job to ensure his officials are not steamrolled by powerful vested interests lobbying for continued fossil fuel use, and that they don’t lapse into groupthink on a narrow and outdated view of energy security.”

Concluding, Friends of the Earth chief executive Oisín Coghlan said:

“The Minister also has a special responsibility to maintain trust in the political system and its ability to deliver serious climate action. If we are going to deliver the ‘deep, rapid and sustained emissions reductions in all sectors’ that the IPCC says are needed then we need climate activists to trust the political system to stick to its climate action commitments. 

“My clear message to Eamon Ryan is that opposition to new fossil fuel infrastructure, and LNG and fracked gas in particular, goes to the very root of his party’s position in Government. 

“And any u-turn on LNG would be seen as a fatal betrayal of the climate movement at the very moment that we need climate activists to champion government climate action from giving more road space to buses and bikes to rewetting some agricultural land.

“I urge Minister Ryan to clarify his position and make it clear that the energy security review will not permit commercial LNG and lock us into fossil fuel dependence and accelerating climate breakdown.”

The full letter from Friends of the Earth to Minister Ryan can be read here. Friends of the Earth also signed the shorter open letter from 150 organisations urging the minister not to u-turn on LNG. The campaigning organisation will be asking its supporters to express their concern to the minister in the coming days.

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