Friends of the Earth Directors from 25 countries are breaking off their AGM in Carlingford to travel across the border to a controversial oil and gas exploration site outside Belfast where a drilling rig was brought onsite yesterday. Local campaigners opposed to fracking are going to court on Thursday to seek an injunction to stop the company from going ahead with drilling. The drilling site is very close to a reservoir that supplies drinking water to thousands of homes.
Friends of the Earth Europe Director, Magda Stoczkiewicz, commented
"We couldn't in all conscience sit in Carlingford discussing how to build a fossil-free future while just up the road a fossil fuel company is riding roughshod over community concerns in pursuit of the last drop of oil and gas. Standing in solidarity with the local people of Woodburn, who are fighting to protect their water, their forest and our climate, is simple necessity."
The public water company NI Water has granted a lease to drilling company Infrastrata for 50 years. The site is at Woodburn Forest, near Carrickfergus, Co Antrim. It is believed to be the first time ever that a public water company has leased land for fossil fuel extraction in a protected water catchment.
A drilling rig turned up at the site earlier this week (Monday), despite the fact that the proposal is currently being challenged in the courts (via a judicial review) by a local resident. Permission for the JR was granted on Friday last week. On Thursday local residents are going to court to get an injunction to stop them from continuing with the proposed work.
The Chair of Friends of the Earth International, Jagoda Munic, said
"Friends of the Earth is the world's largest network of grassroots environmental groups. We work with communities on the frontline of the climate crisis in over 75 countries - those dealing with climate impacts and those fighting its causes. I'm glad to be able stand shoulder to shoulder with the community in Woodburn. We simply can't afford to open up any new areas to fossil fuel extraction."
The latest science suggests we will need to leave 80% of known reserves of fossil fuels in the ground if we are to have a decent chance of meeting the Paris Agreement goal of containing climate change. Two of the reservoirs served by the Woodburn catchment are Areas of Special Scientific Interest. In March this year Hollywood actor Mark Ruffalo, wrote to the Northern Ireland Executive over the issue.
Friends of the Earth Directors from London, Dublin, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast have recently agreed a new common goal to end to all onshore extraction of fossil fuels in Britain and Ireland by 2020. Achieving it will involve an end to open cast coal mining in Britain, an end to burning peat for electricity in Ireland and a ban on fracking across all the jurisdictions on these islands.
The international Friends of the Earth delegation will travel to from Carlingford to Woodburn on Wednesday morning for a show of solidarity at 1pm.
The Friends of the Earth Europe Network AGM is taking place in Carlingford, Co Louth from Tuesday to Thursday this week. It is the first time it has taken place in Ireland.