From flooding in the west, to moody weather changes in the east – Ireland’s climate has taken a disastrous turn of events in the last decade. In 2017, Ireland’s carbon dioxide emissions were 20% higher than the European average, as researched by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland.
This was a driving force for Friends of the Irish Environment, leading them to bring a case on behalf of the citizens of Ireland. The case is an attempt to hold the Irish government responsible for not taking adequate steps to address the growing climate change calamity. Friends of the Irish Environment argued that the government has knowingly contributed to the effects of climate change. The case was based on the National Mitigation Plan approved by the government in 2017 being a violation of the 2015 Climate Act and a violation of human rights obligations. The complainants also claimed that the National Mitigation Plan fell short of its obligations under the Paris Agreement which requires countries to do as much as possible to ensure that temperatures do not increase more than 2°C per year. It was contended that Ireland being the third biggest emitter of greenhouse gasses in the EU, that this obligation was not being fulfilled adequately.
On the 19th of September 2019, the High Court gave its judgement against the complainants. However, Mr. Justice McGrath agreed that climate change poses a threat to Ireland and the world at large. He also accepted that the unenumerated right to a healthy environment however did not believe this right was impacted by the making of the National Mitigation plan, which he said was drafted in light of the 2015 Climate legislation. As well as this, the judgement was cautious of overstepping the separation of powers doctrine where in the judiciary was reluctant to infringe on the role of the government.
Friends of the Irish Environment lodged a ‘leap frog appeal’ to the Supreme Court and in light of its importance to public interest, on February 13th the Supreme Court accepted to hear the case. Climate Case Ireland is only the third case globally to be heard in front of the highest national court. 18,000 signatures from the public in its support afforded the case with the high level of public and legal interest, leading to the Supreme Court’s acknowledgement of the importance of this case to the Irish population.
Climate Case Ireland is now awaiting a date for the Supreme Court appeal hearing.
Mahnoor Choudhry – Reporter