The Supreme Court quashed the government’s National Mitigation Plan 2017 on Friday, the 22nd of June on the grounds that it lacks specificity on tackling Climate Change and it does not comply with Ireland’s obligations to do so under the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015.
A seven-judge Supreme Court, which is reserved for cases of exceptional complexity and public importance, heard the case. It ruled that there is a lack of sufficient detail in achieving Ireland’s national transition objective to achieve a low-carbon economy by the end of 2050. Chief Justice, Frank Clarke, noted in his delivery of the Court’s judgement that the government ought to give “some realistic level of detail” about how it intends to achieve this objective through the plan.
The Irish government must now revise its climate action policy and provide specific information in its plan to tackle Ireland’s increasing greenhouse emissions. This is the second time in the world where the highest national Court has required a government to do so.
This landmark case, more widely known as Climate Case Ireland, was brought by Friends of the Irish Environment against the Irish government. The legal challenge was brought through the application for judicial review of the government’s National Mitigation Plan in 2017 on behalf of Irish citizens concerned about growing greenhouse gas emissions in Ireland. However, it was submitted that the plan was insufficient to take effect to the State’s admission that Ireland needed a 25% to 40% reduction between 1990-2020 to avert the dangers of climate change.
It was noted by the Chief Justice that Friends of the Irish Environment could not bring claims that the government’s failure to adequately tackle the growing problem of climate change was in breach of personal rights to life and to bodily integrity afforded to Irish citizens under Bunreacht na hÉireann as it is a corporate body.
Clodagh Daly, spokesperson for Climate Case Ireland, commented that “Ireland contributes disproportionately to the climate crisis” and that the “government needs to step up.”
Matthew Mollahan, a recent UCD Law with Politics graduate, assisted with the campaigning of the case by organising various events and canvassing for signatures for the petition. He commented that the allowing of this appeal by the Supreme Court means “that any climate legislation the government brings forward will have to be in line with climate science”. The government will now have to keep “targets in mind year on year, rather than having a vague plan on carbon emissions based on the 2050, which is far too late” in its new plan.
He said it was “inspiring for climate activists” and shows “that there is another way to bring about change in the country!” He concluded that “there is always more work to do” and the campaign will continue organising “events and webinars related to climate litigation.”
Mahnoor Choudhry – Assistant News Editor