A Blueprint for how to succeed against the corporations as told by the successes in Ireland.
Ireland is a front line in the global fight against the LNG industry. Our land features shale basins, ripe for fracking. We are also on the shipping route from North America. We have deep water harbours and an interconnector, through which gas can be brought into the UK and onwards into Europe. Geopolitically, we have ties with the USA, while Irish MEPs also have influence in Europe. What happens on this battleground is important, and slowly but steadily, the Irish anti-LNG movement is winning.
In 2017, the Republic of Ireland banned fracking. This was a response to a long campaign rooted in communities threatened by fracking. Irish people have a deep connection to land and communities are tight knit. Here, the threat of fracking was close and visceral. Ordinary people said no to fracking’s devastation of the land and of human health. They educated themselves and their neighbours. This was a true grassroots campaign and a popular win. But the threat continues.
This is a country divided. Several companies are applying for licences to frack Northern Ireland, which is still part of the UK. Other gas companies have plans to turn Ireland into an LNG transportation hub, with terminals and floating terminals along the Irish coastline, receiving LNG for domestic and European markets. One applicant exclusively deals in US fracked shale gas. Another says the gas it plans to bring in would not be fracked. But the global LNG market is based on a vast and expanding fracking industry, and gases from different sources mix. Who would take responsibility for ensuring the imported gas is not fracked? Regardless, right now, there is no legislation to stop a private company bringing fracked gas into this country which has banned fracking.
The campaign to win the fracking ban created activists who had a deep understanding of the LNG industry and Ireland’s geopolitical importance in it. In the wake of their victory, these activists looked towards a bigger ambition – to disrupt the global LNG industry, to stop the expansion of so-called ‘natural gas’, not just fracked gas. But how to achieve something that big? They developed a strategy of ‘death by a thousand cuts’, dismantling the industry’s Irish opportunities one strike at a time. Fracking is the weakest link in the LNG industry’s armour, so this is where activists struck first. Fracking’s climate, health and pollution effects are documented – and indefensible; afterall, Ireland used many of these facts in support of the fracking ban on Irish land. Literally and figuratively, campaigners brought the latest science on fracking’s methane emissions to the government’s door, exploding the ‘fracked gas as a clean transition fuel’ myth. The new objective? A ban on fracked gas imports, disrupting this crucial Irish gas transit route into Europe.
This new campaign is a battle fought in courtrooms, on the street and on social media. Crucially however, activists chose to leverage the power of the Irish Green Party in 2020 new government formation talks.
A Green tide has been rising across Europe. More people have become aware of the environmental crisis, and are giving votes to the Green parties. The Irish Green Party had previously spoken out against fracked gas imports. Yet in late 2019, with an election imminent, Irish activists wanted more. They knew that the Greens would get a record number of votes – enough to be an essential coalition partner for one of the two main parties, putting the party in the position of ‘kingmaker’. The Irish anti-fracking movement decided to make LNG an election issue, using social media to educate new Green voters to the fracked gas imports threat, and calling on the Irish Green Party to make a fracked gas imports ban a ‘red line’ in government talks – to use their power as kingmakers to make this ask a non-negotiable. Green Party members too heard the campaigner’s call and were empowered to apply pressure from within the party.
Exactly as predicted, no party had a majority in the February 2020 election; the Greens did indeed have the power of kingmakers. And after tense negotiations, the Greens made a ban on fracked gas imports a ‘red line’ in the Programme for Government, a document which lays out the new leadership’s intent for the term ahead.
Now, Ireland awaits the promised ban. Leading legal advice has confirmed that the world’s first fracked gas import ban, in Ireland’s Climate Bill, would be compatible with EU and world trade rules. Irish activists see another extraordinary opportunity is this Climate Bill. The #fixthebill campaign calls for the ban and calls for Ireland to take responsibility for upstream and non-territorial emissions – currently, emissions from imported fracked gas are not counted in Ireland’s total under the Paris Accord. Such a Bill would change that, and have game-changing implications across many sectors, bringing climate justice and transparency to Irish industry and to how we consume. Campaigners want it signed at the beginning of 2021.
But the ambition doesn’t stop there. At every step of the anti-fracking campaign, fresh activists and an educated public and bureaucracy are created. They see achievable goals and experience incremental victories. Step by step it builds. Piece by piece, the fracked shale gas industry is dismantled. And then? Then the Irish movement sets its sights on something bigger, on dismantling the global LNG industry – all ‘natural gas’. And the movement sees the transition towards this bigger ambition as seamless – immediately after the 2017 fracking ban, some policy makers began to speak of a total ban of all gas.
Ireland is a small country on the edge of Europe, but also in the eye of the global LNG storm. Here, a small group of ordinary people are punching far above their weight, using strategy to leverage Irish geopolitical power and take down an enormously damaging industry before it is too late. And the Irish anti-LNG movement will succeed.
“I’m worried about fracking in North Ireland and also Ireland becoming a hub for Europe. 1 in 10 houses are at risk of flooding and all of the effects that global warming is having across the world is shocking. Biodiversity doesn’t really get a word in with governments. We need to do everything we can.” – Activist West Ireland
“I’m really fearful about the possibility of fracking in the North and the possibility of LNG terminals in the South. I’m worried about the impact on my children and that we are going to be meshed inside of the toxic poison of these terrible companies in the future.” – Activist Ireland