The environmental organisation, Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) has launched proceedings in the High Court against the government. This is part of an initiative propounded by FIE to ‘ride the crest of a global wave of climate litigation’. A similar case occurred in 2015 when the Urgenda Foundation along with 900 Dutch supporters sued the government for its inaction on climate change. This was followed by legal action in New Zealand, Colombia, Switzerland, and the USA.
The case appeared before Justice McGrath and the court was apparently full of supporters for the action. Eoin McCullough SC, speaking for FIE, said that the Government’s National Mitigation Plan, designed to reduce carbon emissions should be quashed. The FIE also sought orders that the government’s 2017 approval of the Plan, made under section 4 of the Climate Change and Low Carbon Development Act 2015, should be invalidated also. The purpose of this plan is to ensure compliance with the State’s obligations regarding climate change. It also sets out measures which would hopefully set up Ireland’s transition to a low carbon, climate resilient, and environmentally sustainable economy by 2050. However, the FIE argued that the National Mitigation Plan does not comply with the 2015 Act and that the State’s Climate Council itself admitted that Ireland was ‘completely off course’ in meeting it’s climate obligations under EU and international law. Additionally, they submitted that the plan did not give any specific measures on how the State would reduce carbon emissions, which is required to do under the 2015 Paris Accord.
Speaking in court, McCullough said that there was no dispute between the sides as to the cause and consequence of the greenhouse emissions. The FIE also submitted that under the National Mitigation Plan, the government will not reach its targeted reductions by 2020 and will not even reach the levels of emission it is mandated to obey under EU law. McCullough gave evidence that emissions will barely fall by 2030. This will contribute to a 2 or 3-degree rise in global temperature and it will also mean that Ireland has failed to meet its obligations under the Constitution and the European Convention of Human Rights. ‘It is not lawful to retain in place a system that contributes to the strong risk of global warming,’ McCullough said.
FIE have argued that they are taking this case because there is still time to stop possible environmental damage. Whatever can be said of this tactic it is clear the FIE are passionate in their pursuit of environmental justice. However, regarding the efficacy of their actions, the case continues with no clear result yet.
By Daniel Forde – Law Editor