Supreme Court to hear Climate Case Ireland appeal

Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) yesterday received permission to ‘leapfrog’ over the Court of Appeal and to bring ‘Climate Case Ireland’ directly before the Supreme Court, making this only the third climate case globally to reach the level of the highest national court.

Climate Case Ireland, brought by FIE, is a legal challenge to the Irish government’s 2017 National Mitigation Plan, a key plank of the State’s climate policy. FIE argues that the government’s decision to adopt a Plan that allows greenhouse gas emissions to increase by about 10% between 1990 and 2020 (instead of decreasing significantly over this period as the government has accepted is necessary to help avert dangerous climate breakdown) constitutes a violation of citizens’ constitutional and human rights and Ireland’s Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015. 

Climate Case Ireland drew a packed audience to the four day hearing in the High Court in January 2019. An online petition in support of the case has already generated over 18,000 signatures of public support. The High Court ruled against FIE in September 2019 on the basis of the separation of powers, holding that the government must be afforded broad discretion in this area. 

The Supreme Court yesterday determined that exceptional circumstances warrant a direct appeal to it and that the case raises issues of general public and legal importance, noting that there is no dispute between FIE and the government as to climate science or the gravity of the likely effects of climate change. 

Clodagh Daly, spokesperson for Climate Case Ireland, commented:

“In December 2019 the Supreme Court of the Netherlands ruled that ‘due to the risk of dangerous climate change that could have a severe impact on the lives and welfare of the residents of the Netherlands,’ the Dutch government has positive obligations to vindicate human rights under the European Convention on Human Rights, including the right to life, by reducing its emissions deeply and rapidly in accordance with the agreed science. 

Climate Case Ireland will now be just the third* climate case in the world to reach the highest national court of law. For the first time ever, how Irish citizens’ constitutional and human rights are impacted by climate change – including the right to a safe environment – will be heard before the Supreme Court. We are very much looking forward to these issues being aired before our highest court and we would like to thank the public for their continuing amazing support.


Notes for the editor:

*The first case brought to the level of a national Supreme Court was the Dejusticia case in Colombia and the second was the Urgenda case in the Netherlands.

  1. Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) is a voluntary network of citizens committed to protecting Ireland’s environment. See 

  2. Climate Case Ireland is a legal challenge brought by Friends of the Irish Environment seeking to quash Ireland’s 2017 National Mitigation Plan. See 

  3. To ‘leapfrog,’ means that the case can bypass the Court of Appeal and instead be expedited to the Supreme Court.

  4. The Supreme Court’s determination, together with FIE’s grounds of appeal and the State’s reply, are available here.

  5. The Climate Case Ireland High Court judgment is available here.

  6. The Supreme Court of the Netherlands’ judgment in the Urgenda case is here.

  7. More information about the Dejusticia case in Colombia can be found here.