Climate Case Ireland team addressing media at the High Court Photo: Niall Sargent

Supreme Court to hear Climate Case Ireland appeal

February 14th, 2020

Friends of the Irish Environment was yesterday granted permission to directly bring its landmark climate case that challenges the State’s mitigation plan before the Supreme Court.

In November, the environmental group 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 has now been granted.

The Supreme Court yesterday determined that exceptional circumstances warrant a direct appeal to it and that the case raises issues of general public and legal importance.

The case becomes only the third climate case globally to reach the level of the highest national court, following the Dejusticia case in Colombia and the Urgenda case in the Netherlands.

In 2018, the Colombian Supreme Court ordered the protection of the Colombian Amazon from deforestation, ruling in favor of a group of 25 youth, who with the support of Dejusticia, sued the government for failing to protect their rights to life and a healthy environment.

In a historic decision last December, the Dutch Supreme Court upheld the decision of the lower courts that the government is obliged to urgently and significantly reduce emissions in line with its human rights obligations.

Courtroom drawing of Rory Mulcahy SC Climate Case proceedings by Emily Robyn Archer
Courtroom drawing of Rory Mulcahy SC Climate Case proceedings by Emily Robyn Archer

During last year’s hearing of the Irish case, FIE argued that the mitigation plan is not designed to achieve substantial emissions reductions and 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. 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.

Clodagh Daly, spokesperson for Climate Case Ireland, said:  For the first time ever, how Irish citizens’ constitutional and human rights are impacted by climate change – including the right to a safe environment – will be heard before the Supreme Court.

“We are very much looking forward to these issues being aired before our highest court and we would like to thank the public for their continuing amazing support,” she added.

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