Court rules for Irish government in historic climate case

They also argued that plan fell far short of the steps required by the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Climate Case Ireland judgement
Climate Case Ireland judgement

Dublin High Court has ruled in favour of the Irish government after a group of climate activists challenged its plan to tackle climate change.

The landmark case, taken by Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) – which began in January this year, argued that the Irish Government’s climate action plan fell far short of what is needed to protect citizens.

The group, which took the case under the name Climate Case Ireland, said they wished to hold the government to account, claiming its Mitigation Plan to tackle climate change was in violation of Ireland’s Climate Act (2015), and human rights obligations.

Mr Justice Michael MacGrath, ruling on the historic case on Thursday, said the case was “a very complex case involving different issues of law and science”.

“The government argued their Mitigation Plan is an initial step in making the country a low carbon economy, the applicant says there is no hope of achieving this and the plan is inadequate, the difference between the parties is immediacy,” Justice MacGrath added.

“It cannot be concluded that it is the Act itself which places rights at risk, and I couldn’t reasonably conclude as specified in legislation that it is contrary to national policy for climate change.

“The Mitigation Plan is one extremely important part of the jigsaw.”

During four days of hearings, Brian Kennedy SC and Eoin McCullough SC representing Climate Case Ireland, argued that the government’s approval of the National Mitigation Plan in 2017 was a violation of obligations under the Constitution, the European Convention on Human Rights, and under Ireland’s Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015.

They also argued that plan fell far short of the steps required by the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Similar actions against governments have been taken across the world, and in the Netherlands a successful legal challenge ordered the Dutch government to accelerate its carbon emissions cuts in the face of climate emergency.

Justice MacGrath cited that the government had wide discretion for its policies and was not for the court to decide on.

He noted that the Act itself was a “living document” subject to review and monitoring, which in itself showed the government was putting their own plans under scrutiny.

He added the applicants had not proved that the Act itself had impinged on any human rights, or was repugnant to the Irish Constitution.

After the ruling, Clodagh Daly from Climate Case Ireland said the group was disappointed but plan to make an appeal.

“We didn’t get the outcome we were looking for. But we may have lost our case, we have not lost hope,” she said.

“The judge did recognise that climate change is a really serious issue. He accepted that we have a right to bring the case which is really important, which the government argued we didn’t.

“What it came down to was the judge doesn’t really want to intervene in policy issues and tell the government what they should be doing, so we’re going to consider grounds for appeal.

“The fact we have lost at this point makes it more important that everyone comes out and stands with school strikers tomorrow.”

Thousands of students are expected to skip school on Friday for rallies across Ireland as part of a global day of action against climate change.

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