Two years ago, I joined the first divestment march in Dublin calling for the Irish government to remove fossil fuel assets from our Strategic Investment Fund. It was a bitter cold Valentine’s day, and I felt guilty dragging my 4-year-old out on a march. With less than 50 people in attendance, Ireland’s likelihood of “breaking up with fossil fuels” as a result of our efforts seemed improbable.
I was reassured when I met Bill McKibben a few months later. At a conference hosted by Trocaire and University of Maynooth, he told the audience divestment was already a major national movement in the USA. By 2016, more than $3.5 trillion worth of fossil fuel investments had been withdrawn due to U.S. divestment campaigning, making fossil fuel divestment the fastest divestment movement in history.
This divestment movement was born on U.S. college campuses. The “youth” of today continually impress me – They have led the charge against toxic free trade deals like TTIP and CETA and now they lead on divestment, neither of which are topics for the faint of heart.
Following Trocaire’s conference, Ireland’s university divestment campaigns blossomed, with students at Maynooth University, Trinity College Dublin, NUI Galway, and our neighbors at Queens University Belfast all leading the charge. Trocaire deserves tremendous credit for fostering an Irish divestment movement, particularly as an organisation whose mandate focuses primarily on global and national poverty rather than environment.
This week, the Dail voted 90 to 53 to move forward with legislation to divest the Irish Strategic Investment Fund from all fossil fuels. If passed into law soon, this legislation would make Ireland the first country in the world to divest state assets fully from fossil fuels. While financially this effort is relatively small, it sends a strong message to the rest of the world that Ireland is preparing to transition to a low carbon economy where fossil fuels will become stranded assets for those who hold them.