The Government’s failure to prepare and submit its long-term climate strategy due more than three years ago puts Ireland out of step with most other EU member states, an environmental group has claimed in the High Court.
Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) wants the court to force the Minister for the Environment and Climate to prepare and submit the strategy to the European Commission, as required by EU law.
Article 15(1) of the EU’s Regulation on Governance of the Energy Union and Climate Action required each member state to prepare a 30-year strategy by January 1st, 2020, with subsequent shorter strategies required afterward.
Co Cork-based FIE said the Climate Change Advisory Council, an independent Irish body, has said Ireland is “behind its peers, raising concerns about the ability to achieve long-term targets”. In a review more than a year ago, the council said the absence of a long-term strategy is a “critical gap” and an “urgent priority” for Ireland.
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While the Government is not bound by the views of the advisory council, the Supreme Court has recognised its “significant weight”, said FIE.
FIE alleges it wrote to the Minister and the taoiseach of the day on various dates since December 2021. The Minister indicated in December 2021 that the long-term strategy would be submitted to the European Commission no later than April 30th, 2022, FIE said.
In response to a further letter from FIE, the Minister said in December 2022 that “every effort is being made to submit the long-term strategy to the commission as soon as possible”. The State’s latest public statement on the matter gives the fourth quarter of 2023 as the period for finalising the strategy in line with requirements in the Climate Act of 2021.
As part of a suite of orders sought, FIE is asking the court to direct the Minister to report to the court on the progress made in preparing the strategy.
It also wants an order requiring the Minister to review Ireland’s latest integrated national energy and climate plan to ensure it is consistent with the long-term climate strategy, as required by article 15(1) of the regulation.
In a sworn statement, FIE’s director Ian Lumley said the State respondents “remain seriously off-course” when it comes to Ireland’s short- and longer-term greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets and carbon budget.
FIE’s senior counsel, Eoin McCullough, with John Kenny, instructed by O’Connell & Clarke Solicitors, told the High Court on Monday that the EU obligation to produce a strategy is binding and the Minister does not appear to argue otherwise.
Mr Justice Charles Meenan was satisfied the proceedings contained arguable grounds to permit him to give permission for FIE to pursue judicial review. The case came before him on an ex parte basis, meaning the respondent Minister, Ireland and the Attorney General were not formally notified of the application or represented in court.
The case was adjourned.