November 22nd, 2019
Friends of the Irish Environment has lodged an appeal over the High Court’s decision in the landmark Climate Case Ireland that the State’s climate mitigation plan is not unlawful.
During a four-day hearing in January, the environmental groups argued that the State’s plan is not designed to achieve substantial emissions reductions to halt rising temperatures and, as such, does not protect citizens from the worst impacts of climate breakdown.
This, the group argued, is a clear breach of constitutional and human rights, including the right to an environment consistent with human wellbeing and dignity.
FIE wanted to see the plan sent back to the Government for reformulation to bring it in line with emissions reductions required to limit temperature increases to 1.5C as called for by the world’s leading scientists.
In his judgement released in September, Mr Justice Michael MacGrath said that it is clear that climate change is a very serious issue facing both Ireland and the world.
While also accepting that an unenumerated constitutional right to a healthy environment does exist for the purpose of this case, Mr Justice MacGrath said that he was not satisfied that the making of the plan itself impacted on the right.
He said that he cannot conclude that the plan itself puts these rights at risk based on FIE’s argument that the actions within the Plan are not strong enough to reduce emissions in the rapid manner required to halt temperature rise.
He said that it would also be inappropriate to view the plan in isolation from the Climate Act under which the Plan was created. “The plan is but one, although extremely important, piece of the [climate policy] jigsaw,” he said.
Mr Justice MacGrath also said that the courts must give respect to the separation of powers and that the courts are, and should be, reluctant to make a judgement on plans and programmes that clearly outline political and policy choices available to the State.
FIE has now lodged two appeals – a direct appeal to the Court of Appeal, as well as an application to ‘leapfrog’ the case directly to the Supreme Court that will need the permission of Court itself.
More than 18,000 members of the public have signed an online petition supporting the legal challenge, with supporters packing out the High Court during the hearing in January.
There was also strong in-court public support during January’s hearing, with Mr Justice Michael MacGrath even stopping proceedings at one point to allow more members of the public into the courtroom, directing them to available floor space close to his desk.
Clodagh Daly of Climate Case Ireland, said: “It is regrettable that citizens had to turn to the courts at all to try to compel our government to do what it has repeatedly agreed is necessary to avoid the worst impacts of climate breakdown.
“Ireland’s emissions remain among the highest in Europe per person, and our overall emissions have risen significantly over the past three decades. By failing to dramatically reduce our emissions, the Irish government is ignoring public calls and a political consensus for more ambitious climate action.”
FIE is also challenging the Irish Government on a number of fronts, challenging the climate ambition of the National Development Plan
The environmental group also has several cases currently before the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU), including a bid to have court documents open to the general public and a challenge to the extension of planning permission for a proposed liquefied natural gas terminal close to the Shannon Estuary.