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Ireland may become the first country to completely divest from fossil fuels

Why it matters to you

The landmark legislation is a symbolic move from a relatively small country that could pave the way for others to join in preserving the planet's natural resources.

The environmentally conscious are bemoaning the renewed controversy around the Dakota Access Pipeline, but there may be a silver lining overseas. In a decisive victory for the Earth, Ireland has become the world’s first country to completely divest from fossil fuels. In a 90 to 53 vote, the Irish Parliament passed legislation that will drop coal, oil, and gas investments from its $8.56 billion Ireland Strategic Investment Fund.

The bill was introduced by Deputy Thomas Pringle, and while it’s not officially law yet (it still awaits review by Ireland’s financial committee), chances of its ultimate passage are high. If it does pass, the law will require the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund to sell its investment in fossil fuel industries over the course of the next five years.

“This principle of ethical financing is a symbol to these global corporations that their continual manipulation of climate science, denial of the existence of climate change and their controversial lobbying practices of politicians around the world is no longer tolerated,” Pringle said. “We cannot accept their actions while millions of poor people in underdeveloped nations bear the brunt of climate change forces as they experience famine, mass emigration and civil unrest as a result.”

The landmark legislation will be more of a largely symbolic effort, as Ireland does not have a particularly large environmental impact, given its small size. All the same, its decision may pave the way for larger countries to take similar pledges. It certainly stands in sharp contrast to the latest tone taken by the American government, whose current administration has reversed many of the goals of the Obama era.

Should Ireland’s divestment legislation pass, it’ll overtake Norway as the country that has done most in terms of cutting ties with fossil fuels. In 2015, Norway’s Norway’s sovereign pension fund divested from some, but not all, fossil fuel companies.