Court rules for Irish government in historic climate case

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

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