High Court environmental rights constitution

Legal challenge to Project Ireland 2040 opens today

March 10th, 2020

A legal challenge to the Government’s adoption of Project Ireland 2040 on grounds of climate change concerns opens today in the High Court.

Last May, the High Court granted leave to Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) to challenge the adoption of Project Ireland 2040, a €116 billion plan designed to guide the country’s development plan over the next 22 years.

The Project includes both the National Planning Framework and the National Development Plan and outlines Ireland’s priorities, values and population growth policy.

One of the strategic objectives of the project is to transition Ireland to a low-carbon, climate-resilient society, allocating a €500 million fund for environmental action and the ecological roadmap includes banning petrol and diesel cars from entering the market after 2030.

The roadmap also calls for reducing carbon emissions from electricity generations and significant public transport infrastructure projects, including Metrolink. However, planned transport investment is still skewed toward road infrastructure.

Overall, FIE argues that the plans do not adequately identify, describe or evaluate the impacts on the climate. The plans have already been deemed by the Commission as inadequate measure to meet our 2030 targets.

FIE also that the environmental assessment in the plan is inadequate and does not put Ireland on a trajectory to meet its international binding climate change commitments.

FiE argue that the two plans under the project fail to take into account the obligations for assessment of potential environmental impacts under the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) and the Habitat Directives.

The EU Commission’s protocol on SEA obliges Member States to integrate environmental assessments into their developmental plans at its earliest stage possible.

FIE also argues the Plan will increase emissions and will see Ireland in breach of commitments under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement.

The environmental group is also challenging the Legal Aids Board’s refusal to fund its case and address what it calls the “significant inequality of arms between the parties in the substantive proceedings”. That case is due to be heard on 23 June 2020.

FiE and Climate Case supporters outside High Court Photo: Niall Sargent
FIE and supporters outside High Court for Climate Case Ireland Photo: Niall Sargent

National Development Plan motion

The motion notes that since the publication of Project Ireland 2040, the Government’s long term development strategy, a climate emergency has been declared by the Dail and therefore, “significant revisions of the plan are required in order to deliver on this declaration”.

In addition to recognizing the severity of the climate crisis, the motion is also calling on the Government to better manage public finances and deliver meaningful action on public spending and investment.

A motion in the Dail passed last year that called for the National Development Plan (NDP) to be revised to ensure the State meets its 2030 emission targets. The Social Democrats put forward the private member’s motion, imploring the government to overhaul public spending commitments to deliver meaningful actions on climate change.

An amendment proposed by Green Party leader Eamon Ryan passed for the revision of the NPD to ensure that the State meets its 2030 emission targets and achieves a net-zero emission economy by 2050.

Mr Ryan said that the Government previously “saw no need” to carry out a climate assessment of the plan prior to publication. “We now know that it will result in a 70 per cent shortfall in meeting our emissions targets by 2030 even if every single measure in the plan were implemented,” he added.

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