Friends of the Irish Environment appears at UN talks in Bonn to discuss landmark climate case against the Irish Government

Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE), a network of citizens committed to protecting Ireland’s environment, will today appear at the UN climate talks in Bonn to discuss the legal challenge it has brought against the Irish Government’s failure to take the action needed to avert dangerous climate change. FIE will appear alongside lawyers and campaigners representing four other climate cases across Europe – from Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Norway.

Inspired by global climate change litigation, including the 900 Dutch citizens who won a case against the Dutch Government, FIE is taking the Government of Ireland and Ireland’s Attorney General to court. The case is the first of its kind in the country.

Sadhbh O’Neill of FIE commented, “Ireland’s per capita emissions are among the highest in the EU, and our emissions are projected to increase by 7.5-10% by 2020 compared to 1990. This is the opposite of what’s needed: the Government has repeatedly acknowledged in the UN that to avoid dangerous climate change Ireland should reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 25-40% by 2020 compared to 1990.”

FIE’s legal challenge claims that the Irish National Mitigation Plan—one of the main planks in the Government’s climate change policy—does not do enough to reduce Ireland’s emissions and is a violation of Ireland’s Climate Act, the Irish Constitution and its human rights obligations. FIE also claims that the Plan falls far short of the steps required by the Paris Agreement on climate change.

O’Neill continued, “The consequences of climate change are already hitting home in Ireland, including ex-Hurricane Ophelia and the ‘Beast from the East’. But our Government refuses to take the action needed. Its National Mitigation Plan is on course to be a National Rising Emissions Plan. The Irish Citizens Assembly has voted overwhelmingly for ambitious climate leadership, so this case is for everyone in Ireland, young and old.”

Professor John Sweeney, one of Ireland’s leading climate scientists, added, “Ireland’s current actions are not producing the results needed to fulfil its responsibilities under the Paris Agreement, or its commitments to its EU colleagues. Our increasing emissions make the Government’s reluctance to place the well-being of its citizens before short-term economic interests ever more apparent. There can be no ‘free riders’ as the climate emergency deepens – present and future citizens are entitled to seek climate justice.”

The case is one of a series of cases that have been filed against European governments for failing to deliver climate policies in line with the Paris Agreement. In 2015, the Urgenda Foundation successfully sued the Dutch Government for its weak emissions reduction targets. Dennis van Berkel, Legal Counsel to the Urgenda Foundation, stated, “Our case proved that all governments have a legal duty to protect their citizens against climate change by doing their part to lower emissions. Governments all over the world, including in Belgium, Switzerland, the UK, the US, Colombia, and New Zealand are being held legally accountable for their climate inaction, and all eyes will now be on what unfolds in Ireland.”

FIE hopes to build on its success in another groundbreaking case against the Irish Government in 2017, in which an Irish Court for the first time recognised a constitutional ‘right to an environment that is consistent with the human dignity and wellbeing of citizens at large’.

The climate case will next be before Ireland’s High Court for a procedural hearing on Tuesday 5th June. It is expected the case will be heard in full within the next year.



Background information:

  1. For more information about the Irish Climate Case, see (website live on 7 May 2018).
  2. A more detailed press release (also embargoed to 1330 (Ireland) on 7 May 2018) relating to the event at which FIE will appear at the UN talks in Bonn is available here. The event will be livestreamed here.
  3. Ireland is one of 195 countries to have signed the Paris Agreement, which commits countries to preventing dangerous climate change and holding warming to well below 2°C relative to pre-industrial levels as well as pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.
  4. Ireland has the third-highest level of greenhouse gas emissions per capita in the EUand a recent report confirmed that Ireland’s emissions have increased since 1990 and are projected to increase further between now and 2020, and again by 2030. The projected total increase in Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 to 2020 is between 7.5% and 10%. See the EPA’s estimates of emissions in the period 1990 to 2015 and the EPA’s emissions projections 2016-2035. This compares to the required reduction of 25%-40% between 1990 and 2020 in order to help avert dangerous climate change, as recognised by Ireland repeatedly via the UNFCCC process
  5. Ireland’s Climate Act is the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015.
  6. FIE is represented in the case by O’Connell & Clarke Solicitors and by barristers Eoin McCullough SC and John Kenny BL.
  7. For more information about global climate litigation, see (scroll to bottom)


FIE contacts and interviews:

Sadhbh O’Neill    +353 (0)87 2258599

Other FIE contacts:

Daithí Ó hÉalaithe (English & Irish language)  +353 (0)87 6178852

Tony Lowes +353 (0)27 74 771 / +353 (0)87 2176316