The Programme for Government (PfG) sets a clear pathway towards better practices and less reliance on fossil fuels across every sector of our society.
It specifically contains a commitment to end the issuing of new licences for the exploration and extraction of gas on the same basis as the decision taken in 2019 by the previous Government in relation to oil exploration and extraction.
Minister Ryan made the commitment effective immediately upon taking office - the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications is no longer accepting new applications for exploration licences for natural gas or oil, nor will there be any future licensing rounds.
The September 2019 decision by the previous Government in relation to oil exploration, the subsequent policy statement and the Programme for Government commitment as outlined above have had an impact on the amount of authorisations under regulation. The number of authorisations has dropped from 55 at end September 2019 to 30 at end December 2020 - a decrease of 45%.
Government approval was given on 2 February 2021 to draft Heads of Bill which would give statutory effect to this Programme for Government commitment through the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill.
Additional Heads of Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill 2021 (Amendments to Petroleum and Other Minerals Development Act 1960) - Download
The intention is to amend the Petroleum and Other Minerals Development Act 1960 to statutorily prohibit the granting of new petroleum prospecting licences, licensing options, exploration licences, lease undertakings and petroleum leases in line with the PfG commitment.
These proposed amendments will further emphasise that Ireland is moving away from oil and natural gas exploration and extraction as it expands the September 2019 decision by the previous Government in relation to oil exploration, the subsequent policy statement and the Programme for Government commitment as outlined above.
Existing authorisations will not be affected by these changes, and will be able to continue to apply to progress through the licensing stages towards production. This is an important element of the Government’s approach, as any legislative changes must respect the Constitution and the rights of existing authorisation holders.
It should be remembered that any applications for follow-on authorisations or applications to conduct activity in the Irish offshore under existing authorisations, will remain subject to Ministerial consent, and will continue to be required to meet environmental, technical and financial standards.