14.05.21 Press release: As Climate Bill passes second stage in the Dáil, Climate Case Ireland warn that it remains insufficient.
Posted on: 14-05-2021
Climate Case Ireland, supported by multiple national and international grassroots groups, have written an open letter to Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, and the Green Party, welcoming improvements to Ireland’s redrafted Climate Bill, but calling upon the Government to go further to ensure that Ireland adopts legislation that reflects science and climate justice.
Friends of the Irish Environment made international headlines when they won their historic legal case ‘Climate Case Ireland’ against the Government in July 2020, becoming only the second case in the world in which a Government’s overall level of mitigation ambition was successfully challenged in court.
Campaigners behind Climate Case Ireland are now calling on the Government to ensure that Ireland’s Climate Bill provides a clear and binding commitment to remaining below +1.5°C increase in global average temperature relative to pre-industrial levels; to ensure that action on climate change and biodiversity loss is fully complementary; and to enshrine climate justice and just transition as the Bill’s central organizing principles.
Regarding the Bill’s current level of ambition, Climate Case Ireland consider that remaining below +1.5°C should be recognized as the overarching goal of the Bill – and not “climate neutrality” by 2050.
Clodagh Daly, campaign coordinator for Climate Case Ireland, noted that:
“Given the lack of action up to now, the Programme for Government’s commitment to an average 7% per annum reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2021 to 2030 (a 51% reduction in the level of annual emissions over the decade) is of course welcome, but we have a responsibility to be honest here: it is not enough, and the Bill hasn’t even faithfully delivered on this commitment. The science is clear – Ireland is set to enter into carbon debt as early as 2024. For younger generations and those at the frontline of this crisis around the world, the targets in this Bill are simply not commensurate with the scale of action required.”
Climate Case Ireland are calling on the Government to fix the Bill’s drafting so that it delivers on the Programme for Government commitment. In addition, Climate Case Ireland are calling for the Climate Change Advisory Council to be tasked via the Bill with reporting monthly on whether Ireland’s 2030 target ought to be raised and the target year for complete decarbonisation ought to be brought forward. If the targets do not represent “progression” and Ireland’s “highest possible ambition” in accordance with the Paris Agreement, the Minister should be empowered to revise the targets, the group says.
- Climate justice and a Just Transition
Climate Case Ireland call for the Bill to be amended to clearly define the principles of climate justice and a Just Transition, and to underpin these principles with meaningful obligations, such as requiring the Government and Ministers to “act consistently with” these principles when drawing up climate action plans, carbon budgets, and long-term strategies. Undertaking a rapid transition to a completely decarbonised society will be impossible, they say, without protecting and centering the needs of people and communities at the heart of this transformation. In this context, they say it is very alarming that the latest iteration of the Bill contains a new provision (s.2A) which would prevent people from seeking financial compensation or damages in court in respect of climate harms; a provision they say infringes international human rights law.
Clodagh Daly remarked that:
“The new s.2A on the limitation of liability should be deleted in its entirety. It is wholly contrary to the principles of climate justice and is in our view unlawful. The European Convention on Human Rights Act 2003 s.3 provides for damages to be recoverable for infringements of human rights. By excluding this possibility, Ireland would fail to provide an effective remedy under Art 13 ECHR and Art 9(4) of the Aarhus Convention. Everyone who lives within the “hundreds of square kilometres” of Ireland that the EPA has said may be impacted by sea level rise and storm surges stands to be adversely impacted by this provision.”
- Fracked gas and fossil fuel exploration
Climate Case Ireland is furthermore calling on the Government to enshrine within the Bill a ban on the importation of fracked gas, in accordance with the recommendation contained in the cross-party JOCCA report. The Human Rights Clinic at NUIG, led by Dr. Maeve O’Rourke, published a legal opinion earlier this year confirming that a statutory prohibition on importing fracked gas is indeed compatible with international trade law. In addition, Climate Case Ireland is calling on the Government to follow through on the promise it made just three months ago to use the Climate Bill to ban licenses for new oil and natural gas exploration.
Johnny McElligott of Safety Before LNG commented:
“A fracked gas import ban would demonstrate a willingness to tackle the world’s largest single super emitter of methane and one of the worst contributors to climate change. It would also demonstrate solidarity and empathy with communities in Pennsylvania, Texas, Northern Ireland and elsewhere affected by, or threatened with, the scourge of fracking. Such a ban would set Ireland on course to become a Global Climate Leader. Ireland would be the first country in the world to ban the importation of fracked gas having already implemented a legislative ban on fracking in 2017. The global trade in LNG is being fueled by the boom in climate-destructive fracking and both are inextricably linked.”
- Legal accountability
Climate Case Ireland additionally warn that language in the Bill must be amended to provide transparency and accountability, and to ensure that future climate cases will not be prevented from appearing before the Irish courts.
Dr. Andrew Jackson, who acted in Climate Case Ireland, commented:
“The Bill is peppered with permissive language such as “in the Minister’s opinion” and “in so far as is practicable”, which is designed to provide wiggle room and to tell the courts “hands off.” Moreover, the language is legally uncertain. What does “practicable” even mean in this context? If the Government is committed to meeting the targets it is setting for itself, no ‘flexibility’ or loopholes or get-out clauses should be needed. The only course of action that will allay the concerns of those who would otherwise turn to the courts is steep and sustained reductions in emissions, in accordance with science and equity – starting now.”
- The Government as a “relevant body.”
Finally, Climate Case Ireland say that the Government itself must be expressly recognized as a “relevant body” under the Bill. Last month the High Court clarified that “the Government” is not bound by s.15 (duties on certain bodies) of the Climate Act and that provisions that refer only to “A Minister of the Government” similarly do not bind “the Government” as a whole.
Climate Case Ireland has today launched an email action, supported by Uplift, and are encouraging everyone to contact their TDs to ensure the Climate Bill is strengthened.
On July 31st, 2020, Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) won their historic legal challenge, known as ‘Climate Case Ireland,’ against the Irish Government. The landmark Supreme Court judgment held that the Government’s National Mitigation Plan, a main plank of its climate change policy, failed to specify the manner in which it is proposed to achieve the ‘national transition objective’, as required by Ireland’s 2015 Climate Act. This means that the Government failed to specify how it planned for Ireland to transition to “a low carbon climate resilient and environmentally sustainable economy by the end of 2050.”
The case was heard in the Supreme Court on June 22nd and 23rd 2020 by an exceptional seven Supreme Court Judges – the composition reserved for cases of particular importance or complexity. Dr. David R. Boyd, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, commented that: “This landmark decision recognizes the urgency of responding to the climate emergency and sets a precedent for courts around the world to follow.”
An online petition for Climate Case Ireland attracted over 20,000 signatures of support and a large public rally was also held in support of the case prior to the hearing in the High Court. The case was heard in the High Court by Mr. Justice MacGrath from January 22-25th 2019. Supporters packed out the High Court during the four-day hearing in 2019, in almost unprecedented scenes.
Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE)
Established in 1997, FIE is non-profit Company Limited by Guarantee and a Charity registered in Ireland. It is a member of the European Environmental Bureau and the Irish Environmental Network. Registered Office: Kilcatherine, Eyeries, Co Cork, Ireland. P75 CX53 Company No.326985. Charities Registration No. 20154530. Tel & Fax: 353 (0)27 74771. Email: email@example.com
For more information on the case and Climate Case Ireland’s ongoing campaign efforts, see www.climatecaseireland.ie
Contact: Clodagh Daly, 086-155-5581 or firstname.lastname@example.org
 See one-pager and full letter explaining the issue.