A significantly revised Climate Action Bill is going before the Cabinet on Tuesday which will include putting into legislation a ban on all oil and gas exploration and extraction in Ireland.
The proposed changes have been drawn up by Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications Eamon Ryan. The previous government stopped issuing oil exploration licences, while the current Government extended this to gas.
The move is a step towards putting these restrictions on a legislative footing and ends fossil fuel prospecting and future development of oil and gas fields, which were allowed under the 1960 Petroleum and other Minerals Development Act.
A ban on the processing of imported fracked gas in liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals is to come under separate legislation.
The Climate Action Bill is set to introduce a legal requirement for economy-wide carbon budgets set on a five-yearly basis, with emissions ceilings for each sector. It also strengthens oversight by the Oireachtas and the role of the independent Climate Change Advisory Council.
The Oireachtas Climate Committee recommended in December that the Bill be significantly strengthened to include a national ban on importing fracked gas, a new 2030 emissions reduction goal, and a mandatory target for reducing methane arising from agriculture.
After eight weeks of intense pre-legislative scrutiny it made 78 recommendations on how it should be strengthened.
Environment and climate NGOs and experts who appeared before the committee criticised its vagueness of language, lack of accountability and absence of sanctions for missing carbon budgets.
The Bill should be drafted in a way that creates clear legal obligations and ensures legal accountability in the future, the committee concluded – endorsing the approach of the Scottish climate act. In response, Mr Ryan said the legislation would be strengthened.
His department is working through the committee’s recommendations with a view to a final text coming before Cabinet for sign-off later this month.