Press release Irish Government taken to court in landmark climate case

Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE), a network of citizens committed to protecting Ireland’s environment, has launched a legal challenge against the Irish Government’s failure to take the required action to avert dangerous climate change.

Inspired by global climate change litigation, including the 900 Dutch citizens who filed a case against the Dutch Government and the 21 children currently taking on the US Government, FIE has filed a lawsuit against the Government of Ireland and Ireland’s Attorney General. The case is the first of its kind in the country.

The 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 greenhouse gas emissions and is a violation of Ireland’s Climate Act, the Irish Constitution and human rights obligations. FIE also claims that the Plan falls far short of the steps required by the Paris Agreement on climate change.                                          

Tony Lowes of FIE commented, “The Government has acknowledged many times at UN level that Ireland should reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 25-40% by 2020 (compared to 1990) to help avoid dangerous climate change. Instead, our emissions are projected to increase by 7.5-10% by 2020 and to increase further by 2030.”

Lowes continued, “The consequences of climate change are dire. This has long been acknowledged by our government, but they still refuse to take the necessary action. This case is not about any one environmental organisation. It’s a case for everyone in Ireland, young and old. We’re hoping the case will capture imaginations here and abroad and galvanise a movement pushing for ambitious action. The extreme impacts of climate change are beginning to hit home – we need to act urgently to ensure this is not the new normal for us and for our children and grandchildren.”

Dutch lawyer Dennis van Berkel says he’ll be following the case with great interest. Van Berkel is legal counsel to the Urgenda Foundation, which was behind the Dutch climate case in 2015. “The Dutch case proved that all governments have a legal duty to protect their citizens against climate change by doing their part to lower emissions,” said van Berkel. “Given Ireland’s seriously inadequate climate policies and growing emissions, this case may well lead to the court reaching the same conclusion. Governments all over the world, including in the US, Belgium, Switzerland, and New Zealand, are being held legally accountable for their inaction on climate change, and all eyes will now be on what unfolds in Ireland.”

FIE today obtained permission from the High Court to proceed with its lawsuit. The Government has three weeks to file its reply (though it may take much longer) and the case should then be heard in 2018.