Irish Citizens Triumph as Supreme Court Orders Stronger National Climate Plan

by Nakul

This past week marked a notable period in Ireland’s fight against climate change. The citizen-run NGO, Friends of the Irish Government (FIE), called for more accountability by the federal government regarding its plan to reduce natural gas emissions. 

For context, in 2015, the nation passed the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act, which stated that by 2050, Ireland would reduce its greenhouse emissions by 80% in comparison to 1990 levels. In 2017, the Irish government followed this up with a more robust plan, the National Mitigation Plan, which explained in detail how the government planned to drastically reduce emissions in a viable, safe manner. However, the FIE exclaimed that the government simply failed to clearly and specifically address how they would implement such change in the energy industry in their previous plans, and in October of 2017, they launched an “application for judicial review” on the National Mitigation Plan, in the court case now dubbed Climate Case Ireland. The FIE also contended “developed countries like Ireland should be cutting emissions 25-40% from 1990 levels by 2020”. The group received significant support around the nation, with one of their online petitions garnering over 20,000 signatures. The government’s Climate Change Advisory Council itself admitted the issue in the current climate plan, explaining that the nation is “completely off course” of achieving its 2020 and 2030 emission reduction goals. 

Initially, in September of 2019, the Supreme Court actually ruled against the FIE, claiming the the “[National Mitigation] Act does not require particular intermediate targets”. The FIE immediately appealed this court ruling, and in a landmark decision near the end of July, all 7 Supreme Court judges ruled in favor of the FIE, stating that “a compliant plan must be sufficiently specific as to policy over the whole period to 2050.” Understandably, the citizen members of FIE were “overwhelmed”, with spokesperson Clodagh Daly stating that the FIE is “grateful to the lawyers who dedicated their time to the case and are thankful to supporters across Ireland who backed them”. The government revealed that it now plans to reduce annual emissions by 7% from 2021 to 2030, totaling a 51% reduction by the end of that period.