High Court environmental rights constitution

Decision on landmark climate challenge to Dublin Airport extension due tomorrow

17th October 2017

A landmark case using Ireland’s new climate action legislation challenge a proposed new runway proposed for Dublin airport is set to be decided tomorrow.

Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) have sought a judicial review of Fingal County Council’s decision to extend planning permission for the development of a €320 million runway at Dublin Airport.

The environmental group alleges that the council’s Chief Executive was fully aware that the extra runway would result in increased greenhouse gas emissions before granting the five-year extension.

According to the group, this runs in contravention of the National Transition Objective set out in the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015.

The group also argue that, as the original permission was granted based on an Environmental Impact Statement from 2002, the council has failed to consider new research on climate change over the past 15 years.

Climate before the Courts

This is the first time that measures reflecting the State’s commitment to transition to a low carbon economy by 2050 have come before the courts.

According to a statement from FIE, the case is an “important test of the strength of the obligations placed on public bodies to further this objective”.

The case also raises the important issue of whether the Constitution recognizes fundamental environmental rights, the groups said in a statement.

Representing FiE and instructed by FP Logue Solicitors, John Kenny submitted that the Irish Constitution recognized an “unenumerated right to a healthy environment”.

On the eight day of the Judicial Review, Mr Kenny quoted Pope Francis’s May 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si in support of his contention that the “philosophical consensus” supports the “legal and scientific consensus that requires climate change be addressed”.

A spokesman for Friends of the Irish Environment said: “The overwhelming legal, scientific, and ethical arguments all support our claim that the State is not doing enough to address the greatest challenge of our time, entirely ignoring our new Climate Act and our international commitment to reduce the nation’s carbon emissions.”

Residents Concerned

Two other groups have also brought legal challenges in relation to the proposed runway.  The St Margaret’s Concerned Residents Group are challenging permission for the runway on the grounds that the Dublin Airport Authority had not submitted a waste management plan in advance of starting works as was legally required.

A challenge has also been brought by 22 individual local residents against Fingal County Council, who claim that the Council has not addressed their concerns about the development’s impact on their properties.

The case resumes today and is due to conclude tomorrow.

About the Author

Niall Sargent

Niall is the Editor of The Green News. He is a multimedia journalist, with an MA in Investigative Journalism from City University, London

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