Supreme Court to hear appeal over Government's 'flawed' climate change plan

Supreme Court to hear appeal over Government's 'flawed' climate change plan
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A seven-judge Supreme Court will hear an important appeal next month over the dismissal of an environmental group’s case alleging a Government plan aimed at tackling climate change is flawed and inadequate.

During a case management hearing today held remotely, the Chief Justice, Mr Justice Frank Clarke said it appeared all was in order for the appeal to proceed, via remote hearing, on June 22. It has been allocated two days.

The court had previously agreed to hear a “leapfrog” appeal by Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE), one direct to the Supreme Court, after finding the issues raised are of “general public and legal importance” and there was a “degree of urgency in respect of the adoption of remedial environmental measures”.

The appeal is against a High Court decision rejecting FIE’s challenge to the government’s National Mitigation Plan, published in July 2017.

The plan sets out measures described as the first steps on a path designed to transition Ireland to a low carbon, climate-resilient and environmentally sustainable economy by 2050.

In its action against the Government and the State, FIE sought orders quashing the government’s approval of the plan and directing the government to produce a plan that will properly tackle the risks posed by global warming, including flooding, fires, ecological destruction and loss of life.

The 2017 plan fails to specify any measures to urgently reduce greenhouse gas emissions as it is required to do, it was claimed.

The State respondents argued the plan was not justiciable, meaning its adequacy or otherwise could not be decided on by a court. FIE, they submitted, was impermissibly advancing a prescribed policy and seeking to impose a positive obligation on the State to deliver such a policy.

In his September 2019 judgment dismissing FIE’s case, Mr Justice Michael McGrath ruled the government must be afforded broad discretion in adopting plans under the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015 and, in light of the constitutional separation of powers, the court could not interfere with the plan.

In agreeing to hear FIE’s appeal against that decision, the Supreme Court said issues of general and public importance arose.

The issues are - (1) the availability of judicial challenge to the legality of the plan; (2) the standard of such review if adoption of the plan is justiciable as a matter of law and; (3) the broader environmental rights asserted by FIE under the Constitution, European Convention on Human Rights and/or from Ireland’s international obligations.

The case concerns the 2017 plan but, arising from case management, the Supreme Court will also be provided with a copy of the government’s Climate Action Plan 2019 which updates the 2017 plan.

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