Legal challenge threatened over State’s failure to produce long-term climate strategy

‘Critical gap’ may be focus of High Court action, CCI warns Government

The Government has been warned it faces legal action if it does not publish the State’s final long-term climate strategy by January 1st next; two years after required by the European law.

The warning comes in a solicitor's letter issued on Monday to the Taoiseach and the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications from Climate Case Ireland (CCI), the specialist climate offshoot of the environmental NGO Friends of the Irish Environment.

“Playing ostrich on this is not a viable strategy,” it noted, “The State must deliver long-term planning now for all of our futures, fully compliant with the EU obligations it itself negotiated and agreed.”

The letter cites the 2018 EU Regulation which obliged member states to submit a “long-term climate strategy with a 30-year perspective and consistent with the EU’s climate neutrality objective” by January 1st, 2020.


According to CCI, last week's 2021 review published by the Climate Change Advisory Council (CCAC) highlighted the absence of the long-term strategy, calling it a "critical gap" in Ireland's climate action policy. This "leaves Ireland behind its peers, raising concerns about the ability to achieve long-term targets" it wrote in its letter to the Government.

The CCAC also emphasised there was an urgent need for this long-term strategy to plan for the large-scale carbon removals that are implicit in the State’s transition to the“net zero [carbon emissions] by 2050” national climate objective.

CCI added: "Our shorter-term plans required under EU law must by law be consistent with a long-term strategy. The State submitted its final national energy and climate plan to the European Commission in August 2020 without a long-term strategy in place, meaning that this duty of consistency cannot have been met."

CCI, which gathered more than 20,000 supporters for its successful Supreme Court action – resulting in the State's 2017 national mitigation plan being struck down in July 2020 – cited Chief Justice Frank Clarke's judgment. In quashing the Plan, he wrote measures necessary to achieve the national transition objective "must be specified not only for the first five years but for the full length of the period then unexpired up to 2050."

"Both our Supreme Court and the Federal Constitutional Court in Germany have thus emphasised the importance of longer-term planning to 2050, yet our Government has failed flat out to produce a long-term strategy, despite the clear legal deadline of January 1st 2020," CCI said. "This flows through into shorter term planning because there is no long-term strategy to guide the making of action plans."

Following its successful legal challenge, CCI indicated it would return to the High Court if it believed the Government's future climate action plans were deficient in addressing the climate crisis.

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times