Blog Post – Access to Social Housing and Section 15 reports.

In recent months we have seen an increase in issues related to Section 15 reports presenting at our free legal advice clinics.  

What is a Section 15 report and why does it matter? 

Under sections 14 and 15 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1997, local authorities can request the background information of a person who has applied for social housing. This information, known as a Section 15 report, can be requested from another housing authority, other specified organisations or persons, including An Garda Síochána.  

Section 15 reports are often requested by a local authority just before they make an offer of housing to an individual. The contents of these reports can have a significant impact on whether that offer is made, or whether the individual has been suspended from the list.  

Despite the potential far reaching impact of a Section 15 report, local authorities often refuse to disclose the report to the person affected, giving them no opportunity to review or respond to its contents. 

What is the local authority’s obligation in relation to the disclosure of Section 15 reports?

All local authorities are legally obliged to disclose the contents of a Section 15 Report to the person who is the subject of the report as a matter of natural justice and fair procedures. There is no general lawful basis for local authorities to refuse to disclose Section 15 Reports where requested, under the Freedom of Information Act 2014 or otherwise.

However, there is no consistent policy or transparency across local authorities around the disclosure of these reports to the individuals concerned, and many refuse to disclose them outright. 

A positive outcome for our client 

Recently, we were delighted to have a positive outcome for a client who had been suspended from the housing list by their local authority on the basis of a Section 15 report prepared by An Garda Síochána.  We appealed the suspension,  and our client was reinstated to the housing list. In January, after six years living in emergency accommodation, she and her family finally received an offer of social housing.  

In the course of our work on this case, we encountered huge difficulties in accessing the Section 15 report relating to our client, with even our request for the report under the Freedom of Information Act 2014 being denied. At no point was our client given an opportunity to read or respond to the contents of the report. This created real challenges for our client in trying to appeal her suspension from the housing list. 

We made a complaint on behalf of our client to the Office of the Information Commissioner, and following an investigation, the local authority reversed its position and released a copy of the report to our client. Significantly, the local authority in question reviewed its policy, and committed to disclosing all Section 15 reports going forward. 

Next steps 

We have since written to the Housing Agency and the Department of Housing, requesting that all local authorities are reminded of their constitutional duty to disclose Section 15 reports, and to ensure consistency and transparency across the board. 

How can we help you? 

Contact us for free legal advice in the areas of homelessness, housing, employment, environmental, social welfare, family and children’s law. Appointments can be booked by phoning 01 847 7804 or visiting our website to book an appointment online.  

Community Law & Mediation is offering a free Community Mediation service

Did you know? Community Law & Mediation offers a free community mediation service for neighbours, siblings, communities in dispute. 

Community mediation can help to build more positive, peaceful and inclusive communities. It can play a key role in fostering a better sense of understanding, communication, and collaboration among community members. It does this by opening up channels of communication and helping people to work through their difficulties or disputes in a non-adversarial setting.  

To understand what community mediation is, we first need to understand mediation itself:

What is Mediation?

Mediation aims to help disputing parties find a mutual agreement. It’s a voluntary, private, and fair process. It avoids the need to take legal action. 

It is a process where two parties in a dispute (individuals, family members, community members) mutually agree to meet with professional and impartial mediators to resolve conflicts, disputes, or other contentious issues, without the need to take costly or emotionally draining legal action. 

What is the role of the Mediator?

The main role of a mediator is to be impartial, to treat all parties fairly and to manage the mediation process. Their job is to facilitate the two parties to communicate effectively and consider the issues with a view of parties mutually agreeing an outcome.    

What is Community Mediation?

Community mediation helps members of a community, neighbours, tenants and landlords to resolve disputes in a non-adversarial setting. Disputes often arise over noise, litter, disputes over boundaries or common areas, between tenants and landlord disputes, siblings, and more. 

Community mediation is a means for community members and neighbours to resolve disputes, without the need to take legal action. 

It actively works to improve the quality of life for those living in a community, enabling them to live together in harmony. 

What issues can community mediation help with? 

The types of issues that community mediation can help with include: 

  • Noise complaints 
  • Disputes over boundaries or common areas.
  • Disputes over pets (such as barking dogs) 
  • Disputes between siblings relating to the care of an elderly parent. 
  • Tenant and landlord disputes. 

What are the benefits of community mediation? 

  • Allowing conflicting community members, siblings, or family members to work resolve their dispute in a non-adversarial setting. 
  • It is a voluntary, private, and fair process. 
  • CLM’s mediation services are free and confidential. 

To book into our free community mediation service, please contact us on 01-847 7804. Alternatively, email mediationadmin@communitylawandmediation.ie to find out more about mediation and conflict coaching and the process involved. 

All of our conflict coaches and mediators have completed conflict management training and received accreditation from the Mediator’s Institute of Ireland.  

CLM Legal Service 2024: Are you a Traveller experiencing accommodation difficulties? 

In 2023, Community Law & Mediation launched free legal advice clinics on accommodation issues specifically for members of the Traveller community. 

In 2024, we will continue to support Travellers with free legal advice on issues relating to accommodation, such as but not limited to, access to social housing, access to emergency accommodation and discrimination in accommodation matters. 

In our work as an independent law centre, we see a huge unmet need for legal advice for members of the Traveller community in accommodation issues.   

The Irish Traveller Movement (ITM) has described the accommodation situation as an “accommodation crisis”. Travellers face specific challenges in accessing appropriate, quality and sustainable accommodation, as well as challenges in obtaining reasonable loans to cover the costs of accommodation and other essential living expenses. Issues with poor accommodation intersect with other areas of life, such as, health, education, employment, mental health and opportunity for social inclusion. Furthermore, Travellers experience both day-to-day and systemic discrimination, based on their identity, in trying to access accommodation.   

These free legal advice clinics aim to give meaningful access to justice for Travellers through providing legal advice around accommodation issues.  

When are the clinics taking place: 

Our next clinic will be held on Monday, the 25th of March, with appointments taking place between 11am and 1pm. We will update this page with further information when our next clinic dates are released. 

Each appointment is 40 minutes long. You are welcome to bring a friend, family member and/ or advocate with you to the appointment. 

How to book into the free legal advice clinics: 

To book into these clinics, you must contact us in advance of the clinic date. You can contact us: 

  • By phone on 01 847 7804; 

“Children have a right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment”

United Nations’ General Comment on child rights, the environment and climate change must be a catalyst for urgent action by Government to reduce emissions and protect children’s rights.

The United Nations’ Committee on the Rights of the Child today officially launched its General Comment on children’s rights and the environment, with a special focus on climate change. According to the Committee, the General Comment came about as a result of the efforts of children to draw attention to environmental crises.

Community Law & Mediation (CLM), a community law centre which specialises in environmental justice and children’s law services, is calling on the Government to heed the findings of the report, which states in unequivocal terms that “the triple planetary crisis, comprising the climate emergency, the collapse of biodiversity and pervasive pollution, is an urgent and systemic threat to children’s rights globally”, including the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment. The report also makes it clear that the effects of climate change will not be felt equally; vulnerable children are most at risk of feeling the impacts of the climate crisis first and worst, including within developed countries such as Ireland.

The General Comment has been published at a critical juncture for climate action globally and in Ireland. Despite declaring a climate and biodiversity emergency in 2019, Ireland’s emissions have remained persistently high. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently warned that Ireland is projected to fall “well-short of climate targets” and called for the urgent implementation of “policies that deliver emission reductions across all sectors in the short term.”[1] The Climate Change Advisory Council further warned that “The Government needs to set out credible and detailed implementation plans to enable us to achieve our ambitious targets.”[2]

CLM has consistently warned that the longer transformative climate action is delayed, the more difficult the transition will be, particularly for children and future generations. It is calling on the Irish Government to take climate action in accordance with its legal obligations to avoid unduly burdening young and future generations with drastic emissions reductions in the future.

This view is shared by the German Federal Constitutional Court, which found in Neubauer et al v Germany[3] that “one generation must not be allowed to consume large portions of the CO2 budget while bearing a relatively minor share of the reduction effort, if this would involve leaving subsequent generations with a drastic reduction burden and expose their lives to serious losses of freedom.”[4] In a groundbreaking legal decision last month (August), a Montana court found in favour of 16 young plaintiffs that the state’s failure to consider climate change when approving fossil fuel projects was unconstitutional.

Commenting on the publication of the General Comment, Clodagh Daly, Manager of CLM’s Centre for Environmental Justice said:

“Climate change is an inter-generational injustice without precedent. It is no surprise that children have been leading the way in the fight for climate justice. Children are disproportionately impacted by climate change, and it is not about protecting a planet they will inherit – it is about protecting their rights today. That is why Community Law & Mediation provides free legal advice on children’s rights and environmental justice. We welcome the UN General Comment and call on the Government to deliver deep, rapid and sustained reductions in emissions to vindicate the rights of children in Ireland and around the world.”

Ruth Barry, children’s law solicitor at CLM said:

“The climate crisis is ultimately a children’s rights crisis. As the UN General Comment highlights, environmental protection applies to all children’s rights as set out in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, including the right to be heard, the right to education, the right to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, the right to access to information and the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment. These rights must be protected amidst an escalating climate and biodiversity crisis. Environmental decisions generally concern children, and the best interests of the child should be a primary consideration in the adoption and implementation of environmental policies.”

Community Law & Mediation provides free legal advice on children’s rights and environmental and climate justice and calls on the Irish Government to act urgently on the UN’s recommendations to protect children’s rights.

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Community Law & Mediation and the Centre for Environmental Justice

Community Law & Mediation is an independent community law centre and charity, working since 1975 with communities impacted by social exclusion, disadvantage and inequality, through the provision of free legal advice, advocacy, mediation and education services.

In 2021, CLM established the Centre for Environmental Justice which works to ensure low income and marginalised communities are not disproportionately impacted by climate change or other environmental harms, and that environmental measures and climate action protect and build equality and social justice. CLM also provides a specialist children’s law service to support young people and families with legal issues.

Appointments for our free legal advice clinics on environmental and/or children’s rights can be booked by contacting 01 847 7804 or filling in the clinic form here.

UN Committee on the Rights of the Child – General comment No. 26 (2023) on children’s rights and the environment with a special focus on climate change

In this general comment, officially launched on 18th September 2023, the Committee on the Rights of the Child emphasises the urgent need to address the adverse effects of environmental degradation, with a special focus on climate change, on the enjoyment of children’s rights, and clarifies the obligations of States to address environmental harm and climate change. The Committee also explains how children’s rights under the Convention on the Rights of the Child apply to environmental protection and confirms that children have a right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.

According to the Committee, the efforts of children to draw attention to environmental crises created the motivation and were the momentum behind this general comment. The Committee’s children’s advisory team supported a consultation process with children from 121 countries, through online surveys, focus groups and in-person national and regional consultations. The Committee also received inputs from States, experts and other stakeholders through two rounds of consultations on the concept note and first draft of the general comment.

Climate Action Case – Community Law & Mediation and Friends of the Irish Environment

Community Law & Mediation is representing Friends of the Irish Environment, an Irish environmental non-governmental organisation (eNGO), in its High Court legal challenge of the Irish Government’s Climate Action Plan 2023 (CAP23) and its corresponding Annex of Actions.

 

The legal challenge has been launched by Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) against the Irish Government over its failure to show with a sufficient level of specificity that the Climate Action Plan 2023 (CAP 23) and its Annex of Actions will reduce greenhouse gas emissions in line with Ireland’s legally binding carbon budget – a breach of the Government’s legal duties under the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015 (as amended).

Despite declaring a climate and biodiversity emergency in 2019, Ireland remains the second worst emitter of greenhouse gas emissions in Europe and the latest stark projections by the Environmental Protection Agency and analysis by An Taisce show that Ireland will fall significantly short of its legally binding 2030 climate targets.

This case is being taken because Ireland has a legal and ethical duty to adhere to its obligations on climate change, to protect children, citizens and communities from the most dangerous impacts of the climate crisis and to prevent the need for more abrupt and forceful action later.

[1] Environmental Proteciton Agency. 2023. ‘Ireland projected to fall well short of climate targets, says EPA.’ l (epa.ie)

[2] Climate Change Advisory Council. 2023. ‘Statement by the Chair of the Climate Change Advisory Council following the publication of Ireland’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Projections 2022 to 2040’ l (climatecouncil.ie)

[3] Learn more about the youth led Neubauer v Germany watershed victory here.

[4] https://www.bundesverfassungsgericht.de/SharedDocs/Entscheidungen/EN/2021/03/rs20210324_1bvr265618en.html;jsessionid=2D79A2FF1A584C978D3717BA2FA42736.2_cid377

Climate Conversations 2023: Response Template

The Climate Conversations Consultation is a key forum through which people can have their say on climate action, how it affects them, and policies they would like to see implemented. It is designed to inform the Climate Action Plan 2024.

Why does it matter?

Ireland’s Climate Action Plan, and its Annex of Actions, is published annually. Its purpose is to set out a roadmap for meeting Ireland’s 2021-2025 legally binding carbon budget, that is, the total amount of emissions that may be emitted in the State during a five-year period.

In 2019, Ireland was the second country in the world to declare a climate and biodiversity emergency. Despite this, Ireland remains the third worst emitter of greenhouse gas emissions in Europe. The latest projections by the Environmental Protection Agency and An Taisce show that Ireland will fall significantly short of its 2030 legally binding emissions reduction targets.

How to have your say:

The link to the survey is available here.

It takes approximately 20 minutes in total to complete.

The deadline is Friday September 8th at 5.30pm.

Community Law and Mediation’s Centre for Environmental Justice has prepared an “Environmental Justice” template response, which you can navigate below – please adapt it and make it your own, but use as much of it as you need.

• This section includes 5 multi-choice questions about your views on climate change.
• There is a comment box at the end where you can be honest about your feelings on the climate crisis. CLM provided the following response:

Following the hottest June and wettest July on record for Ireland, it is deeply troubling that Ireland’s emissions remain among the highest per capita in the EU. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently warned that the Climate Action Plan 2023 – if fully implemented – will exceed the first two legally-binding carbon budgets (2021-2025; 2026-2030) by 22%, “a significant margin.” The EPA has called for the urgent implementation of “policies that deliver emission reductions across all sectors in the short term” in order to adhere to the carbon budget program. In response to the EPA’s assessment, the Climate Change Advisory Council further warned that “The Government needs to set out credible and detailed implementation plans to enable us to achieve our ambitious targets.”

The Council previously highlighted in their 2021 and 2022 Annual Reports that considerable gaps remain between proposed climate action measures and implementation. CAP24 must therefore deliver “rapid, far-reaching, and unprecedented” reductions in emissions in order to limit the human rights impacts of climate change and to comply with Ireland’s legal duty to take climate action consistent with a 1.5°C threshold. The longer climate action is delayed, the more difficult it will be. As the impacts of climate change worsen, and as the window to remain within 1.5°C narrows, the policy response may become abrupt, forceful, and disorderly. Communities should instead be empowered and supported through an inclusive and fair transition.

• The first nine questions refer to the importance of different actors in delivering climate action, from individuals to the European Union.
• The following 6 questions refer to how well you think the Irish government is delivering on climate action.
• The final 3 questions ask about your engagement in climate action.
• A comment box at the end invites responses to: “Do you have any other comments you would like to add about climate action levels and responsibilities?” CLM provided the following response:

We do not consider the Irish government’s action on climate change to date to represent positive climate leadership. In relation to the Climate Action Plan (CAP) specifically, lessons must be taken from the failures of Climate Action Plan 2023 and its corresponding Annex of Actions. For example, neither the CAP23 nor its corresponding Annex of Actions quantified the reductions in emissions anticipated from the implementation of either specific or collective measures. While the CAP23 was published in December 2022, the Annex was only published in March 2023, it was not until June 2023 (i.e. more than 6 months after the publication of the CAP23) that the Environmental Protection Agency found that CAP23 was inconsistent with emission reduction requirements per Carbon Budgets 1 and 2.

Public assessment of various policies and measures included in CAP23 and its Annex is, as a result, very challenging. Delayed publication of the Annex hinders the Government’s capacity to deliver timely and full implementation of the Climate Action Plan. According to the Climate Action Plan 2023 Q1 Progress Report (published on May 4th 2023), a quarter of the Climate Action Plan 2023 Q1 measures have been delayed (25%). No proposals are made within the progress report to demonstrate how implementation shortfalls will be compensated by additional policies or measures to ensure compliance with Carbon Budget 1. The Government should identify, quantify, and measure policies (eg phase out the production and importation of fossil fuels) to ensure CAP24 and its Annex of Actions are fully consistent with Carbon Budgets 1 and 2, and include measures to ensure their successful and timely implementation.

•This section asks questions that relate to your understanding of climate change and where you source information about climate change.

•14 questions related to your understanding of climate change are asked in this section

One of the questions refers to the likelihood that climate change will cause a “global migration crisis.” This is irresponsible framing. Migration is a resilient and adaptive response to the climate crisis – it is not a crisis within itself, nor does it pose a threat to Ireland’s national security. Research has shown that framing climate migration as a “crisis” is likely to elicit backlash (see: Gillis, A., Geiger, N., Raimi, K. et al. Climate change–induced immigration to the United States has mixed influences on public support for climate change and migrants. Climatic Change 176, 48 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-023-03519-y)

Another of the questions refers to the importance of balancing emissions “sources” and “sinks”. The Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change has described the extensive deployment of negative emissions technologies as ‘subject to multiple feasibility and sustainability constraints’. There is a danger that GHG removals will be seen as a substitute (rather than in addition) to immediate and significant emission reductions. The problem with an overreliance on GHG removals include the risk that carbon could leak back into the atmosphere; the risk of heightened competition for land; and the fact that most technologies are still only prospective and do not yet exist at scale. It is for this reason that scholars call for separate emissions reductions and GHG removals targets and for the urgent prioritisation of ‘much more ambitious, near term [emissions] reductions’.

•This section asks 29 questions about a range of actions that could be taken across areas like transport, food, home, and day-to-day activities.
•This section includes two comment boxes; the first invites you to include “any other actions that you think might have a big impact on reducing carbon emissions.” CLM orovided the following response:

Many of the sustainable options listed here (such as retrofitting, installation of a heat pump or solar panels) are not available or affordable to many people. These barriers need to be addressed. Much greater investment from the government is needed, ideally to cover the full cost of energy efficiency measures such as retrofit, to ensure that energy efficiency measures are available to all households, regardless of income or home ownership status. This is particularly important in the context of Ireland’s energy poverty crisis, where up to 40% of households are estimated to have experienced energy poverty last winter. CAP24 should seek to reduce energy poverty and energy emissions in tandem.

•The second (and final) comment box in section 4 invites you to include “any barriers not mentioned so far that you think prevent people of making more impactful actions.”

•CLM submitted the following response:

It is unclear why certain questions are included within this consultation, for instance, the questions related to pets. By way of comparison, the CAP23 provides no clarity as to how agricultural emissions will be reduced, particularly when a model of expansion seems set to continue for the agri-food sector. CAP23 furthermore does not clarify when the production and importation of fossil fuels will be entirely phased out. Fossil fuels are the primary contributor to climate change and account for 57% of Ireland’s overall emissions profile (SEAI). The CAP24 must address the primary causes of climate change, and it would be more empowering if this consultation engaged the public on questions of how the government can deliver reductions in emissions across all sectors of the economy, consistent with carbon budget 1, in a manner that is fair and brings the public along.

Many of the low-carbon alternatives suggested in this questionnaire (such as retrofitting, electric vehicles, and heat pumps) are simply not affordable or accessible to people living in Ireland, recently recognised as the most expensive country in the EU. Those who have contributed least to the climate crisis – low-income, one-parent families, and members of the Traveller community, for example – have no means of choosing lower carbon alternatives, and do not necessarily have the bandwidth to worry about such concerns (the “end of the world” v “the end of the month.”) Had this consultation asked about the proportion of one’s income allocated to rent and energy bills, and whether one has savings, for example – a more comprehensive response as to why one may not be positioned to adopt more environmentally friendly behaviours would be more clear. The evident onus placed on individual action through this consultation is disempowering and inconsistent with a human-rights approach to climate action.

•The final section asks some questions about you- such as your age, living arrangements, and employment status (you can choose to opt out of those questions if preferred).

That’s it! You’ve completed Climate Conversations 2023.

Family Rights Advocacy Course- QQI Level 6

This course gives a basic understanding of the Irish legal system and family law in relation to advocacy in Ireland. Learners will develop an awareness of the main features of family law and understand how legislation impacts on relationship while becoming familiar with the legal language, procedures, and court documents relevant to the family law area. Learners will develop their advocacy skills and the ability to apply what they have learned to the workplace.  This course will cover any new legislation regarding family law in Ireland.


Participants who successfully complete this course will be able to:

  • Outline definitions of family to include those in Irish Legislation
  • Identify the functions of the Irish Courts in relation to families
  • Outline the rights, entitlements, services and supports available to families
  • Discuss current issues in relation to rights, entitlements, services and supports available to families.

Research information relevant to families to include rights entitlements and available supports.
 
Payment 
The cost of this course is €650.00 to be paid in full before the course commences (10% discount for CLM Members).
 
Trainers and Accreditation
This course is run by Community Law & Mediation & Ballymun Community Law Centre. This course is QQI accredited in conjunction with Irish National Organisation of the Unemployment (provider code 380460).
 
Location
This course will take place in in The Horizons Centre, Balcurris Road, Ballymun.


Date & Times
This course will run on a Monday for 12 weeks starting on Monday 6 March 2023 from 10am to 2pm each week.

This course gives a basic understanding of the Irish legal system and family law in relation to advocacy in Ireland. Learners will develop an awareness of the main features of family law and understand how legislation impacts on relationship while becoming familiar with the legal language, procedures, and court documents relevant to the family law area. Learners will develop their advocacy skills and the ability to apply what they have learned to the workplace.  This course will cover any new legislation regarding family law in Ireland.


Participants who successfully complete this course will be able to:

  • Outline definitions of family to include those in Irish Legislation
  • Identify the functions of the Irish Courts in relation to families
  • Outline the rights, entitlements, services and supports available to families
  • Discuss current issues in relation to rights, entitlements, services and supports available to families.

Research information relevant to families to include rights entitlements and available supports.
 
Payment 
The cost of this course is €650.00 to be paid in full before the course commences (10% discount for CLM Members).
 
Trainers and Accreditation
This course is run by Community Law & Mediation & Ballymun Community Law Centre. This course is QQI accredited in conjunction with Irish National Organisation of the Unemployment (provider code 380460).
 
Location
This course will take place in The Horizons Centre, Balcurris Road, Ballymun.


Date & Times
This course will run on a Monday for 12 weeks starting on Monday 6 March 2023 from 10am to 2pm each week.

Your Details

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Pilot scheme a welcome development for equality in education for students with visual impairments

Community Law & Mediation (CLM) welcomes the decision by the State Examinations Commission to commence a pilot scheme enabling visually-impaired students to access digital versions of their exam papers.

The decision was made on foot of a lengthy campaign by Eithne Walsh, head of advocacy and communication with Féach, whose son is a visually impaired student and is due to sit the Leaving Certificate in 2023.

Eithne and her son had repeatedly requested that he be provided with a digital copy of his Leaving Certificate examination – to date, only paper-based exams have been allowed – but their requests were refused by the State Examinations Commission (SEC). CLM provided legal advocacy support to the family, and wrote to the SEC highlighting the fact that that it was acting in breach of its statutory duty under s.6 and s.7 of the Education Act 1998 and that its refusal to provide reasonable accommodation was a breach of the student’s rights to equality, education, and his imprescriptible rights as a child.

While the announcement of a pilot scheme is really positive news, this addresses just one of the many obstacles faced by students with visual impairments. For example, they do not currently have the same level of access to past (modified) papers that their fellow students have; the format of the oral examinations is particularly challenging for students who are visually impaired;  and decisions made under the Reasonable Accommodations at Certificate Examinations (RACE) Scheme are often published at short notice, leaving the students affected with little time to appeal if they do not get the supports they need under the Scheme.

Community Law & Mediation will continue to advocate on behalf of families and young people who are affected by issues such as these.

If you have a query related to the education rights of your child, contact us for free legal advice: 01 847 7804.

Community Law & Mediation calls upon Irish government to include recommendations in 2023 Climate Action Plan  

Community Law & Mediation’s Centre for Environmental Justice issues 8 recommendations to government, ahead of the publication of the highly anticipated 2023 Climate Action Plan.

Today Community Law & Mediation sent an open letter to the Minister for Climate, Environment and Communications, Eamon Ryan. The letter calls upon the Government to align the forthcoming Climate Action Plan 2023 with Ireland’s legal obligations on climate change, while addressing the energy crisis and safeguarding marginalised communities.

The recommendations are supported by 19 partner organisations working in the area of environmental and social justice. The six-page letter sets out science-based recommendations which the Irish government should include in the 2023 Climate Action Plan. A summary of these recommendations is:

Holding all sectors accountable in meeting Ireland’s legally-binding 2021-2025 carbon budget:

The organisations are calling for the government to ensure the immediate implementation of Ireland’s 2021-2025 carbon budget, the inclusion of all sectors in the Sectoral Emissions Ceilings, and the publication of the Long-Term Climate Action Strategy in accordance with EU and national law.

  • One-third of Ireland’s legally-binding five-year carbon budget period (2021-2025) has already passed, yet Ireland’s emissions rose by 5% last year and may increase in 2022.
  • Not all sectors are included within the carbon budget framework – most notably, “Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry,” and Aviation and Shipping. The total amount of greenhouse gases across all sectors therefore cannot be assessed, and there is no certainty that Ireland will meet its firstlegally binding carbon budget.
  • Ireland is one of only four countries that has failed to produce a Long-Term Climate Action Strategy and the European Commission recently issued a formal notice to Ireland as the Strategy is now more than two and a half years overdue.

Addressing the energy crisis:

Energy poverty is at its highest recorded rate in Ireland. The organisations are calling upon the Irish government to implement measures in the Climate Action Plan 2023 to eradicate both energy poverty and energy pollution, such as, doubling the Fuel Allowance Scheme and broadening its eligibility criteria, retrofitting Ireland’s entire social housing stock this decade, introducing a new caravan rental scheme which incorporates BER equivalent efficiency standards and providing free and reliable public transport across Ireland. In addition, the organisations are calling for the current moratorium on Liquefied Natural Gas and fracked gas imports, to be made permanent through legislation, alongside an immediate moratorium on the development of data centres until an assessment of what is needed to meet the carbon budget from 2021-2025 is carried out.

Safeguarding vulnerable communities in the transition to a completely decarbonised society:

In Ireland, the top 10% of the population contributed about one third of the cumulative carbon emissions between 1990 and 2015. Low-income households and marginalised groups who are least responsible for the climate crisis are at risk of being most impacted by both climate change and climate action. The organisations are therefore calling for the Climate Action Plan 2023 to address inequality and ensure that the cost of climate mitigation and adaptation measures do not fall on marginalised and vulnerable groups.

In addition, the Irish government must immediately establish a National Just Transition Commission, in advance of formal legislation, based on social dialogue and comprised of representatives of government, trade unions, employers, affected communities and civil society. The aim of this is to ensure that affected workers and communities are not left behind in the transition to a completely decarbonised economy and society.

Clodagh Daly, Community Law & Mediation’s Centre for Environmental Justice Manager, said: “It is imperative that the Irish government commits to deep and sustained reductions in emissions in the Climate Action Plan 2023. Action must be consistent with our legally-binding 2021-2025 carbon budget and must aim to actively address inequality and energy poverty, such as retrofitting our entire social housing stock this decade and providing free and reliable public transport across Ireland. As part of this, the establishment of the Just Transition Commission must be accelerated. We must ensure that everyone in Ireland – and worldwide – can live a decent life within a fully decarbonised society.”

Martin Collins, Co-Director of Pavee Point Traveller & Roma Centre, said: “Pavee Point Traveller & Roma Centre endorses this call on the Government to strengthen the Climate Action Plan 2023. It is well documented that the effects of the climate crisis are inextricably linked with existing social and economic inequalities. For example, a 2019 report from Traveller MABS on energy poverty found that Travellers are 9 times more likely to go without heat than members of the general population. We urge the Government to include and consider the voices of ethnic minority groups – including Travellers and Roma – in any policy relating to climate action and a just transition.”

Michelle Murphy, Research and Policy Analyst with Social Justice Ireland, stated: “One of the fundamental principles of a Just Transition is to leave no people, communities, economic sectors or regions behind as we transition to a low carbon future.  There is enough money in the economy to begin to implement the Climate Action Plan, secure our energy infrastructure, and ensure a just transition to a green economy.  This would also mean, emission reductions, and the creation of a vibrant society and economy.”

Ciara Brennan, Director of Environmental Justice Network Ireland, said: “Ireland must stop planning to fail when it comes to climate action. An ambitious Climate Action Plan for 2023 must be linked to a robust and credible national long-term strategy, which is required to meet domestic and EU obligations, and which will give direction to all domestic level climate plans and policies. A clear plan for how to get to our end destination is crucial in order to protect Ireland from economic shocks amidst the energy and cost of living crises and will allow the true cost of decisions being made now around climate action to be seen within the long-term context.”

The 2023 Climate Action Plan is due to be published by the Irish government before January 2023. CAP23 will outline the detailed plan in the year ahead to reduce greenhouse gas emissions between now and 2024.

ENDS

For more information, contact Fodhla O’Connell-Grennell at Community Law & Mediation, on  FOconnell@CommunityLawAndMediation.ie

To read the full open letter sent to Minister Eamon Ryan, please click here.

Partner organisations include: An Taisce, Friends of the Earth, Social Justice Ireland, TASC, Action Aid, Environmental Justice Network Ireland, Irish Heart Foundation, Friends of the Irish Environment, The Irish Traveller Movement, The Northside Partnership, Age Action, The Climate and Health Alliance, Futureproof Clare, Galway Public Participation Network, Pavee Point, INOU, The Asthma Society and Safety Before LNG.

Link to additional quotes: HERE.

Link to organisation logos: HERE.

Editor Notes:

Community Law & Mediation are calling on the government to ensure that the Climate Action Plan 2023 provides the following:

  1. The immediate implementation of Ireland’s 2021-2025 carbon budget.
  2. The inclusion of all sectors in the Sectoral Emissions Ceilings.
  3. The publication of the Long-Term Climate Action Strategy in accordance with EU and national law.
  4. Measures to address inequality.
  5. Measures to Address the Energy Crisis.
  6. Halt New Fossil Fuel Infrastructure and Withdraw Existing Licenses from Fossil Fuel Companies.
  7. Introduce a moratorium on new data centres.
  8. Ensure a Just Transition.

Community Law & Mediation:

Community Law & Mediation (CLM), previously known as Coolock Community Law Centre, was established on 1 April 1975, as the first, independent, community-based law centre in Ireland. In 2012, we opened a second community law centre in Limerick.

CLM works to empower individuals experiencing disadvantages through:

  • Free legal information, advice and representation;
  • Free mediation and conflict coaching;
  • Information and education; and
  • Advocating for Change

Centre for Environmental Justice:

CLM’s Centre for Environmental Justice was launched by Mary Robinson in February 2021 and is the first of its kind in Ireland.

CEJ offers free legal advice and representation, provides community education and training, and advocates for a rights-based approach to policy and law reform in the area of environmental justice.

What are carbon budgets?

A carbon budget represents the total amount of emissions that may be emitted in the State during a five-year period, measured in tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. It is calculated on an economy-wide basis.

As part of its work, the Climate Change Advisory Council is responsible for proposing three five-year economy-wide carbon budgets, covering the periods 2021-2025, 2026-2030 and 2031-2035, to assist the State in achieving its national climate objectives and greenhouse gas emissions targets agreed by the European Union.

The first three carbon budgets cover the following five-year periods: 2021 to 2025, 2026 to 2030, and 2031 to 2035 (although the budget for the third period is provisional). All greenhouse gas emissions and all relevant sectors are included in the carbon budgets.

They are as follows:

  • 2021-2025: 295 Mt CO2 eq. an average of -4.8% for the first budget period.
  • 2026-2030: 200 Mt CO2 eq. an average of -8.3% for the second budget period.
  • 2031-2035: 151 Mt CO2 eq. an average of -3.5% for the third provisional budget.

What are Sectoral Emissions Ceilings?

Sectoral Emissions Ceilings are the maximum amount of greenhouse gas emissions that are permitted in each sector of the economy during the carbon budget period.

 

The Right to Education- Supporting Families & Children

This half day course on zoom will cover the following areas – 

  • The law relating to education,  
  • Non-discrimination in education, 
  • School admissions, 
  • Schools’ code of behaviour,  
  • Suspension and expulsion by schools, 
  • Section 29 appeals to the Dept of Education, 
  • Use of reduced hours/ short day by a school for individual children, 
  • Bullying and cyber-bullying. 

Date: 15 Nov 2022  

Time: 2.30pm to 5pm 

Location: Zoom 

Cost: €150 

For an application form click here. Please send you application forms to email: education@communitylawandmediation.ie 

Your Details

* Mandatory fields

CLM Housing Law / Prevention of Homelessness Training Course

This training course will examine the law relating to homelessness in Ireland – what is the State’s obligations to people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

This course will look at social housing supports, the application process, and the scheme of allocations. It will explain tenancy rights, evictions, what constitutes an unlawful eviction, and how this can be challenged.

The main outcomes will be:

  • The prevention of homelessness for individuals and families who are at risk of losing their home.
  • Empowerment of individuals to advocate on their own behalf in respect of their housing and tenancy rights.
  • Up-skill other advocacy services and organisations in housing and tenancy rights.

Location
This course is a one-day course split over two half days on Zoom.

Cost

€200

Dates

  • Monday 4th Dec from 10am to 1pm
  • Tuesday 5th Dec from 10am to 1pm

For an application form click here or fill in the booking form below.

For more information please email education. 

Your Details

* Mandatory fields