Tuesday 15 October 2019

Court dismisses challenge against government plan aimed at reducing carbon emissions

Friends of the Irish Environment (from third left to right) Clodagh Daly, David Healy, Andrew Jackson, Sadhbh O'Neill and Tony Lowes and supporters at the Four Courts in Dublin ahead of the judgement in the landmark case under the name Climate Case Ireland. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Friends of the Irish Environment (from third left to right) Clodagh Daly, David Healy, Andrew Jackson, Sadhbh O'Neill and Tony Lowes and supporters at the Four Courts in Dublin ahead of the judgement in the landmark case under the name Climate Case Ireland. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Aodhan O'Faolain & Ray Managh.

The High Court has dismissed an Environment NGO's challenge against a Government plan aimed at reducing carbon emissions and combating climate change.

In a lengthy and detailed judgment concerning complex issues of law and science, Mr Justice Michael McGrath said he was satisfied to dismiss judicial proceedings brought by the Friends of the Irish Environment CLG brought against the government's National Mitigation Plan.

The judge's decision was delivered in front of a packed Court number 1, in the Four Courts, where there was standing room only. 

The plan, published in July 2017, sets out measures that are the firsts step on a path designed to transition Ireland to a low carbon, climate-resilient and environmentally sustainable economy by 2050.

It concerns all sectors of government, with a particular focus on certain key areas such as electricity generation, transport, and agriculture.

In its proceedings against the Irish Government, Ireland and the Attorney General the NGO claimed the plan was flawed.

The NGO urged the court to quash the National Mitigation Plan and direct it to produce a plan that will properly tackle the risks posed by global warming, including flooding, fires and ecological destruction and loss of life.

It also argued that the plan fails to specify any measures to urgently reduce greenhouse emissions as it is required to do.

It further claimed the plan does not comply with the requirements of the 2015 Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act.

The group also claimed that the plan does not contain any mitigation measures by which the state can satisfy its international or EU obligations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The Government it was further claimed was under an obligation to specify the manner in which that national transition objective would be achieved.

Measures such as specifying how greenhouse gas emissions would be managed or removed to levels to appropriate levels were not included in the plan, it claimed.  

As a result, the group sought orders quashing the government's decision to approve the National Mitigation Plan.

It also ask the court to remit the plan back to the government for revision so it could comply with the requirements of the 2015 Act

The NGO had further sought various declarations including that the plan does not take any adequate account of the state's obligations under EU laws or various international agreements including the 2015 Paris Accord on climate change.

The state respondents had opposed the action. It had argued that the NMP is not justiciable, meaning that the dispute could not be decided on by a court of law.

It was also argued that the group was impermissibly advancing a prescribed policy and seeking to impose a positive obligation on the State to deliver such a policy.

In his ruling the judge who cited factors including the separation of powers in his decision said that he could not find that the plan was in breach of the 2015 Act.

The court will issue its full written decision on Friday. The case was adjourned to a date in October, to allow the parties to consider the judgment.

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