Irish take big step towards divestment

A bill requiring Ireland’s €8 billion sovereign wealth fund to divest itself of all coal, oil and gas holdings moved one step closer to ratification after passing a second stage reading in the Irish lower house of parliament in January.

Irish lawmakers voted 90-53 in favour of moving the legislation forward, with all but the largest party, Fine Gael, supporting the bill. Brought by independent representative Thomas Pringle, the bill would require the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) to sell off all investments in fossil fuel industries over the next five years. ISIF’s mandate already includes a strong commitment to sustainability and transitioning to a low-carbon economy, but a 2015 study identified €100 million in legacy fossil fuel assets still held by the fund. The bill will now be reviewed by the financial committee, but is expected to emerge through that process without major changes.

“National governments have an essential role to play in backing up their Paris pledges by ensuring public funds are well placed to support the clean energy transition, and protected from the inevitable decline of the fossil fuel industry,” said Pringle.

Passage of the bill would mark a significant victory for the fossil fuel divestment movement, marking the first time a country has decided to fully divest its sovereign wealth fund. Worldwide, investment funds valued at an estimated $5.2 trillion (U.S.) have committed to selling off all or some fossil fuel assets, according to a study published last December by Arabella Advisors. This includes the Norwegian sovereign wealth fund, which has only fully divested itself of coal assets.

The movement has been picking up support across the Republic of Ireland, including divestment commitments from Trinity College Dublin and support from Trócaire, the overseas development agency of the Catholic Church in Ireland.

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