Supreme Court to hear appeal over Government's 'flawed' climate change plan
Friends of the Irish Environment says plan fails to specify measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
In High Court proceedings against the Government and the State, Friends of the Irish Environment sought to have the court quash the government’s approval of the plan.
The Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal by an environmental group over the dismissal of its case alleging that a Government plan aimed at tackling climate change is flawed and inadequate.
In a published determination, the Supreme Court noted the issues raised are of “general public and legal importance” and that all the parties involved accept there is “a degree of urgency in respect of the adoption of remedial environmental measures”.
The appeal will now be case-managed and a hearing date will be fixed later.
Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) has appealed a High Court decision rejecting its challenge to the outgoing government’s National Mitigation Plan, published in July 2017.
The plan sets out measures described as the first steps on a path designed to transition Ireland to a low carbon, climate-resilient and environmentally sustainable economy by 2050.
In High Court proceedings against the Government and the State, FIE sought to have the court quash the government’s approval of the plan and to direct the government to produce a plan that will properly tackle the risks posed by global warming, including flooding, fires, ecological destruction and loss of life.
The existing plan fails to specify any measures to urgently reduce greenhouse gas emissions as it is required to do, it claimed.
The State respondents argued the plan was not justiciable, meaning its adequacy or otherwise could not be decided on by a court. FIE, they submitted, was impermissibly advancing a prescribed policy and seeking to impose a positive obligation on the State to deliver such a policy.
In his September 2019 judgment dismissing FIE’s case, Mr Justice Michael McGrath ruled the government must be afforded broad discretion in adopting plans under the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015. The court, in light of the constitutional separation of powers, could not interfere with the plan, he held.
FIE sought to appeal and three Supreme Court judges, in a recently published determination, agreed to hear a “leap-frog” appeal, one directly to the Supreme Court rather than the normal route via the Court of Appeal.
The judges noted there is no dispute between the parties as to the science underpinning the plan and the likely increase in greenhouse emissions over the lifetime of the plan.
“The parties accept the gravity of the likely effects of climate change,” they said.
It was therefore unlikely that the questions of law or factual issues raised will be further refined if the appeal was heard before the Court of Appeal, they observed.
The availability of judicial challenge to the legality of the plan; the standard of such review if adoption of the plan is justiciable as a matter of law, and the broader environmental rights asserted by FIE under the Constitution, European Convention on Human Rights and/or from Ireland’s international obligations are issues of general public and legal importance, they said.
The court was satisfied the threshold for a leapfrog appeal was met, they ruled.