Blood coal from Columbia burned in Ireland: The need for a clean energy future

“The connections between County Clare, Ireland and La Guajira, Colombia may not be entirely obvious at first glance. Yet the regions are linked through a shared commodity: coal. Extracted in one region and burned in the other”, Dr Noel Healy explained in a recent piece in the Guardian. Healy is an Associate Professor of Geography at Salem State University, received his PhD from the National University of Ireland Galway and is a native of County Clare, Ireland.

He continues: “Spanning 69,000 hectares – around three quarters the size of county Dublin – Cerrejón is one of the world’s largest open-pit coalmines. It is also linked to well-documented environmental and human rights abuses for over two decades…Ireland’s largest electricity-generation station, Moneypoint, is owned and run by the Electricity Supply Board (ESB) utility company. Because the ESB is majority (95%) state-owned, the Irish government has a duty and responsibility to challenge and try to prevent adverse human rights impacts connected to the company’s fuel purchases.”

However, Healy stresses, “Even if the Irish government stops buying Cerrejón coal, it still has a responsibility for what has happened in the past. It must repair the damages done to those harmed by climate change, by coal, and by the impacts of the transition, such as the loss of jobs for fossil fuel industry workers. Only the government can make a just transition a reality.”

In his conclusion, Healy stresses what is key for us in our Climate Case. As recognised by the International Energy Association says that, Ireland’s location at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean makes that we have one of the best wind and ocean resources in Europe. In this context, it is clear that a clean-energy economy can, and should happen. However, this cannot be realised without the government’s help, and not while the government chooses to invest in fossil fuels instead of clean, sustainable energy sources. How can we get the State to change its course? Healy concludes: “Annual €200m–€600m fines for not meeting EU green-energy targets may change the government’s tune. If they don’t, maybe the Climate Case Ireland legal action will.”