Friends of the Irish Environment, an NGO, have taken High Court action against the State over the 2017 National Mitigation Plan, which they claim breaches EU, UN and Irish law.
The case, which began on January 22nd in Dublin’s Four Courts and was heard by Mr. Justice Michael McGrath, was in procession until Friday the 25th and is not expected to reach a verdict for four to six months.
Senior Counsel for FiE, Eoghan McCullough opened by saying: ”An outstanding fact of this case is that there is no dispute about the effects of climate change.”
“Ireland has the third highest emission rate per capita in the EU”, he said.
Ireland is “directly and disproportionately’’ contributing to climate change and a potential 2°C rise in global temperature, according to McCullough.
The FiE argued that the approval of the NMP 2017 was in violation of Ireland’s Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015, as well as human rights obligations. It also falls short of the steps required by the Paris Agreement on Climate Change 2015.
According to the IPCC report, to keep the global temperature rise well below 2°C, Irelands needs to reduce emissions by 25-40 per cent by 2020 on 1990 levels. The NMP outlines that Ireland will reduce CO2 emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.
”The State appears to think it’s enough to reach this target by 2050,’’ said SC for FiE McCullough.
This argument was based on the fact that it is the cumulative sum of emissions into our atmosphere that causes warming.
As Carbon is a stable chemical compound and doesn’t decompose for thousands of years, short-term reductions are necessary to avoid the costs and risks associated with a rising global temperature.
A crowded courtroom 29 heard that Ireland is ”completely off course’’ regarding EU mandated emission reduction targets and because of this, Ireland is likely be hit with substantial fines.
McCullough pointed out that this fact has been proven by the States own appointed advisory panel. The Climate Change Advisory Counsel (CCAC) referred to Ireland’s 2018 position, with rising levels of GHG emissions, as a ”disturbing’’ trend in its most recent report.
The court heard various reasons for concern laid out in the 5th IPCC report, such as impending extreme weather events, risk of death and flooding in low lying areas and the global South, loss of life, destruction of biodiversity, extinction of species and severe poverty for millions of people.
The case is the first of its kind in the history of the State and Friends of the Irish Environment have said they took inspiration from the Dutch ‘Urgenda’ climate case which saw an NGO and 900 Dutch citizens take a successful case against the Dutch government.