By Dana Drugmand
The Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) appealed on Friday to the Court of Appeal. The group also submitted an application to leapfrog the traditional appeal route and go directly to the Supreme Court, which will decide whether or not to accept the application. That decision is expected in the next few months.
The case, dubbed “Climate Case Ireland,” claims that the Irish government’s National Mitigation Plan adopted in 2017 violates statutory law, the Irish constitution and human rights obligations because it fails to reduce greenhouse gas emissions quickly enough. The case is modeled after the Urgenda climate case in the Netherlands, where a court ruled in 2015 that the Dutch government must make steeper emissions cuts by 2020. An appeals court upheld that ruling and the case currently awaits a decision by the Dutch Supreme Court.
FIE is hoping that Ireland’s highest court will now consider their case. If accepted, it would be only the second climate case in Europe to reach the Supreme Court level. The Irish plaintiffs said they expedited the process as a matter of urgency. “We don’t have a lot of time on our side, but we do have determination, science, and human rights,” the group said. “We’re not going anywhere.”
FIE argues that by failing to reduce GHG emissions quickly, the government is violating Ireland’s Climate Act 2015 as well as fundamental rights under the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights, including the right to life. In September, Justice Michael MacGrath of the High Court rejected these claims, saying the government has broad discretion in setting policies under the Climate Act, and that the National Mitigation Plan itself would not violate fundamental rights.
According to FIE, the National Mitigation Plan will lead to GHG emissions increasing by 11-12 percent over the period 1990-2020, when the government has itself acknowledged that a reduction in emissions of 25-40 percent over this period would be needed to help avert dangerous climate breakdown.
“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,” said Clodagh Daly, spokesperson for Climate Case Ireland. “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. It is for this reason that we are seeking the intervention of the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.”