Climate Bill is fatally weak and threatens to undermine Supreme Court’s judgment in Climate Case Ireland


Press release published November 20th, 2020.

Ireland’s Climate Bill 2020 threatens to undermine the impact of the Supreme Court’s historic judgment in Climate Case Ireland and creates a framework so weak as to be incapable of enabling the urgent action needed, according to the campaigners behind the case.

In July this year, Friends of the Irish Environment made international headlines when they won their historic legal case ‘Climate Case Ireland’ against the Irish Government. Climate Case Ireland became only the second case in the world in which the highest national court of law required a Government to revise its national climate policy in light of its legal obligations. 

However, Climate Case Ireland campaigners say the fight for climate justice isn’t over yet, maintaining that the Bill must be urgently revised to protect the historic Supreme Court judgment and to ensure that Ireland finally adopts legislation that reflects science and climate justice. 

Dr. Andrew Jackson of UCD law school, who acted in Climate Case Ireland, noted that:

“the Bill appears to have been crafted with a view to avoiding legal accountability, but this is counterproductive. A weak governance framework will not see emissions fall, and falling emissions is the only thing likely to satisfy those who may otherwise turn to litigation. In any case, future litigation based on fundamental rights cannot be avoided by adopting a woolly climate law framework.”

Climate Case Ireland campaigners argue that legal accountability should be built in throughout the Bill with a view to ensuring Ireland’s emissions are reduced rapidly and deeply, as required to limit global heating to 1.5C under the Paris Agreement. They also say that changes are needed to the Bill to ensure that the basis for their Supreme Court victory is protected.

Clodagh Daly, Climate Case Ireland Campaign Coordinator, noted that:

“In removing and replacing the provision that formed the basis for our victory in the Supreme Court the Government seems, by a sleight of hand, to be weakening the chances of anyone repeating the feat we achieved. Further, the Bill’s central goal of climate neutrality by 2050 is indefensible from a climate justice perspective. It means that having already contributed disproportionately to the climate crisis, Ireland will now consume far too much of the rapidly depleting “forever” carbon budget that we need to stay within to avoid dangerous climate breakdown. The government’s current plans commit our society to large-scale C02 removal technologies post-2050. These remain in the realms of sci-fi and even if they existed would be subject to multiple feasibility and sustainability constraints, meaning they should not be relied upon in place of emissions reductions now.  Reducing emissions deeply in the short-term is what matters.”

Climate Case Ireland campaigners argue that the Climate Bill should enshrine a commitment to complete decarbonization by 2030 in line with best available climate science and Ireland’s commitment to the Paris Agreement.

Beth Doherty of Fridays for Future remarked:

“It is not enough that this Bill is “more ambitious” than its predecessor. The Government has not learned from the grave mistakes within Ireland’s 2015 Climate Act. This Bill will not enable steep emissions reductions in the short-term, and this is not adequate from a scientific or climate justice perspective. We know that this Bill is our last shot at remaining below +1.5C. At a time when Irish citizens have never been more attuned to how science informs policy and legislation, we need a Bill that aligns with science and climate justice. We won’t accept anything less.”

Climate Case Ireland has called on the Government to put climate justice and a just transition at the heart of the Bill as its central organizing principles. It will be impossible, they say, to achieve a transition to a completely decarbonized society without protecting and centering the needs of people and communities at the heart of this transformation. However, “just transition” isn’t even mentioned in the Climate Bill at present. This is unacceptable, argue the campaigners, and will prevent Ireland from meeting its Paris Agreement goals and helping to avert dangerous climate breakdown.

Climate Case Ireland have launched an online petition calling for the Government to take its recommendations into account.


Background information
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:

For more information on the case, see

Clodagh Daly: 086-155-5581 or