Republic of Ireland news

Dublin failing to fulfil human rights obligations on climate change, court told

Supporters and members of Friends of the Irish Environment, outside the High Court in Dublin ahead of their landmark case against the State over its policies on tackling climate change. Picture by Cate McCurry, Press Association
Cate McCurry, Press Association

The Irish government is failing to "fulfil its human rights obligations" and protect its citizens from the impact of climate change, the High Court in Dublin has heard.

At the opening of a landmark case against the Irish state, the court heard of the "devastating consequences" of climate change.

In 2017, Friends of the Irish Environment obtained leave from the High Court for a judicial review of the government's approval of its National Mitigation Plan (NMP) on the basis that the decision was inconsistent with national, EU and international obligations.

It came after the government published its mitigation plan detailing its goal to achieve an 80 per cent reduction in emissions by 2050 compared to 1990 levels.

Climate Case Ireland is calling for the state to be more ambitious in its plans to tackle climate change, and is asking the court "to quash and remit the inadequate" NMP and review its plans and policies.

Eoin McCullough, senior counsel for Friends of the Irish Environment, said the government's plan is not enough to achieve its targets.

He also told Justice Michael McGrath that the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change said that countries including Ireland should reduce emissions by 25 per cent to 40 per cent by 2020.

"I am able to demonstrate that the National Mitigation Plan is not calculated to achieve substantial emissions reductions in the short term or in the medium term," he said.

"This creates an unacceptable risk of contributing to global warming of more than two degrees."

He said Ireland has the third highest emissions per capita in Europe and "contributes disproportionately" to global climate change.

Mr McCullough added: "Ireland's plan is not sufficient to achieve reductions. The state will not reach 25 per cent to 40 per cent reduction by 2050."

He added that Ireland is failing to fulfil its human rights and constitutional obligations to protect Irish citizens from the impacts of climate change.

"It won't meet EU mandate-imposed requirements by 2020 – that is a legal requirement. Ireland won't even achieve its legally mandated targets."

He said global warming will lead to heatwaves, droughts, floods and wildfires as well as disruption to food supplies and an increase in deaths across the world.

The government's Climate Change Advisory Council (CCAC) published a report last year which said Ireland's greenhouse gases are rising and the government is "completely off course" in achieving its 2020 and 2030 emission targets.

Mr McCullough said these are the conclusions of the state's own advisory council.

Sadhbh O'Neill, spokeswoman for Climate Case Ireland, said she is "delighted" the court is hearing the case.

More than 100 supporters packed out the small courtroom, with many members of the public sitting on the floor to hear the opening statement from Mr McCullough.

Ms O'Neill added: "We have had a massive turnout, a huge public support and we've had nearly 16,000 signatures on our petition now.

"It's all part of holding the government to account.

"There's lots of pressure on the government to reform its policy, but this is different because we are asking the courts to intervene because Irish policy has been so unambitious, our emissions are rising instead of falling.

"Even though the government and our ministers have announced they are going to introduce new plans and policies, we have seen very little action and the emissions are still rising.

"In order to really bend the emission curve downwards we need the courts to intervene and specify exactly what way the government should comply with its obligations under the law."

The case continues.

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