Court ruling on State climate plan ‘demands’ political attention

National agenda derailed by judgment, but Minister notes decision key to political focus

On Friday, the Supreme Court overturned the Government’s ‘excessively vague and aspirational’ plan to combat global warming. File photograph: Getty

On Friday, the Supreme Court overturned the Government’s ‘excessively vague and aspirational’ plan to combat global warming. File photograph: Getty

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The landmark Supreme Court judgment quashing the State’s climate mitigation plan “demands” ongoing political attention on climate issues, the leader of the Green Party has said.

Minister for Climate Action Eamon Ryan said the ruling would provide an important “guard rail” to keep policy and political attention on climate issues as other matters emerge which compete for political attention.

“In the natural order of things emergencies arise and you need that long-term guard rail to make sure really big long-term projects like decarbonisation are remembered even in times when other emergencies grab Government’s attention,” he said.

Mr Ryan said given the competing pressures of Government, “the immediate gets in the way of the important; the advantage about this judgment is it keeps the important in the frame”. Mr Ryan said the Government had to now consider the judgment at length “because it is complex and technical”.

The Minister said a National Energy and Climate Plan to be submitted to Brussels next year may address some of the policy actions necessitated by the court ruling. It is expected that a European target will soon be announced to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. And in October this year national governments are likely to be asked to outline plans to reduce emissions by between 50 and 55 per cent.

The Programme for Government mandates the introduction of a climate action Bill within the first 100 days of the Government. “That process was already in train but the Supreme Court judgment demands it,” he said. Taoiseach Micheál Martin said “the Government will give it serious and considered examination”.

‘Vague and aspirational plan’

On Friday, the Supreme Court overturned the Government’s “excessively vague and aspirational” plan to combat climate change. A seven-judge court ruled the National Mitigation Plan (2017-2022) lacks specificity.

It also found the plan does not comply with Ireland’s obligations under the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015 to give sufficient detail about achieving the national transition objective of a low-carbon economy by the end of 2050.

The Government is obliged to give “some realistic level of detail” about how it intended to meet the objective and the plan “falls a long way short” of the sort of specificity the 2015 Act requires, said Chief Justice Mr Justice Frank Clarke.

He said he did not consider any reasonable and interested observer would know, in any sufficient detail, how it really is intended, under current Government policy, to achieve the objective by 2050 on the basis of the information in the plan. The Government must now devise a new plan taking into account the court’s findings, made in an appeal by Friends of the Irish Environment.

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