An Entire Country Just Divested From Fossil Fuels

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CC BY-SA 2.0. Harrygep

This is beginning to get real.

When the Church of England fleshed out its criteria for fossil fuel divestment, I was encouraged. But clearly, there was bigger news to come.

As we've reported previously, Ireland has been making progress on its plans to divest all public money from fossil fuels. But The Guardian now reports that the Irish fossil fuel divestment bill has now passed the lower house of parliament, and is expected to pass the upper house rapidly. That means it could be law before the end of the year, and the government will be obligated to sell all investments in coal, oil, gas and peat as soon as practicable.

This feels like a pretty big deal. For a start, €300m in fossil fuel investments will be impacted directly by this move. But divestment also sends signals to markets which have their own, long-term ramifications for companies. Yes, there is some evidence that divestment can have unintended consequences, but given the sheer number and size of institutions now divesting—take New York State as a prime example—I feel like we are close to reaching a critical mass where divestment is just seen as sound, fiscal management.

After all, the idea that stranded fossil fuel assets could cause a financial crisis as the world decarbonizes has gone from a niche environmentalist pipe dream to a mainstream economic discussion point.

I suspect we'll look back on such announcements not as revolutionary, but as a sensible economic step to take in the face of what was to come.

Well done, Ireland.