Court requires Ireland to come up with more robust and ambitious climate plan

The case was the first of its kind in Ireland and only the second in the world in which the highest national court of law has required a government to increase the ambition of the national climate policy. Brian Mahon explains in an article on The Times website.

 

Victory for Friends of the Irish Environment as judge throws out Ireland’s climate change plan

The climate action minister has said the government must “raise its ambition” after a Supreme Court decision to quash a 2017 plan to tackle greenhouse gas emissions.

Yesterday the court found in favour of a case taken by Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE), an advocacy group, which argued that the government’s National Mitigation Plan did not have enough detail on how Ireland would achieve emissions reductions.

The case was the first of its kind in Ireland and only the second in the world in which the highest national court of law has required a government to increase the ambition of the national climate policy.

In the judgment Justice Frank Clarke, the chief justice, said: “I have concluded that the plan falls well short of the level of specificity required to provide that transparency and to comply with the provisions of the 2015 (Climate Action and Low Carbon Development) Act. On that basis, I propose that the plan be quashed.”

“I do not consider that the reasonable and interested observer would know, in any sufficient detail, how it really is intended, under current government policy, to achieve the NTO (net zero emissions) by 2050 on the basis of the information contained in the plan. Too much is left to further study or investigation.”

Friends of the Earth has not proposed a set of measures to improve the plan, but it said a robust carbon tax regime and strict targets for increasing the number of electric cars would be an improvement.

Clodagh Daly of Friends of the Irish Environment and Climate Case Ireland said: “The government will now have to create a new national mitigation plan. One which guarantees the rapid and dramatic reduction of Ireland’s emissions. Exciting as the legal win is, the real work begins now.”

She said they were “very eager” to see what the government did to comply with the judgment.

Ms Daly said if the government did not act on the judgment it could be held accountable in the courts again. “The government needs to step up now, so we are looking forward to seeing some action,” she added. The judgment had made it “crystal clear” that the government could not set long term commitment on climate change policy without putting any detail on it in the short term.

Eamon Ryan, the climate action minister, welcomed the decision and said it showed the importance of tackling climate change.

“The scientific consensus is clear, we must cut CO2 emissions in half by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050 to ensure we protect our planet and our country from the most severe impacts of global warming,” he said.

“We must use this judgment to raise ambition, to empower action and to ensure that our shared future delivers a better quality of life for all.”

The Department of Climate Action said that it would “carefully examine the decision and consider its implications”.

Opposition parties also called on the government to move fast to publish a new national mitigation plan.

Darren O’Rourke, Sinn Féin’s spokesman on the environment, said: “Years have now been wasted, so the minister must act on this judgment urgently and bring forward a new, detailed and ambitious plan, rooted in climate justice, that will outline how the state will transition to a low carbon economy.”

Duncan Smith, of the Labour Party said: “Under the 2017 plan, Ireland’s climate emissions have actually risen. Now the Supreme Court has rightly told the new government that Labour’s 2015 law requires them to come up with a more robust plan.”

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