Climate Action Case

Climate change is one of the greatest threats to human rights, posing a serious risk to life, health, food and an adequate standard of living of individuals and communities across the world.

At the Centre for Environmental Justice, our work focuses on the human impact of environmental harms on our communities in Ireland. In certain cases, our work involves us representing clients in climate litigation cases. Our most significant case concerns the Irish government’s climate action plan 2023.

The Centre for Environmental Justice at 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 third worst per capita 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.

The case sets out the following arguments:

  1. The Climate Action Plan 2023 and Annex of Actions is invalid as it does not comply with the requirements of sections 4(2)(a), 4(2)(b) and 4(3) of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015 (as amended).
    • Firstly, the State has not “ensured” that the Plan is “consistent” with the Carbon Budget Programme contrary to the requirements of section 4(2)(a) of the 2015 Act.
    • Secondly, the Plan does not contain a roadmap of actions that include the sector specific actions “that are required to comply with the carbon budget and sectoral emissions ceiling for the period to which the plan relates” (section 4(2)(b)(i) of the 2015 Act) or “that are required to address any failure or projected failure, to comply with the carbon budget and sectoral emissions ceiling for the period to which the plan relates” ((section 4(2)(b)(ii) of the 2015 Act).
    • Finally, the Annex of Actions does not specify measures that will “in the Minister’s opinion, will be required for the first budget period in a carbon budget programme” for the purposes of section 4(3)(a) or the policies identified in 4(3)(b).
  2. The focus of the case is on ensuring that the Climate Action Plan 2023 and its Annex of Actions is consistent with Ireland’s obligations under the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015 (as amended); that it includes quantification of the emissions reductions expected from the Plan and adopts any further measures necessary to comply with the 2021-2025 carbon budget.

The matter is listed in court again for Monday 22nd January 2024.

Further information and media coverage:

BBC Future Planet, Isabella Kaminski, The legal battles changing the course of climate change

Isabella Kaminski, Climate Case Ireland: Three Years On

Irish Independent, Campaigners get high court nod to challenge States’s inadequate Climate Action Plan

Irish Times, Environmentalists want court to overturn Government emissions reduction plan as it is ‘too vague’

The Journal, Irish environmental group takes legal action against Government over climate plan

Law Society Gazette, Legal challenge to Government on climate

Irish Legal News, Irish government faces landmark legal challenge over climate inaction

RTE’s DriveTime Radio

And excellent analysis of the case and the broader climate litigation landscape on RTE’s Brainstorm by Dr Orla Kelleher of Maynooth University

Jargon Buster:

  • Litigation: To take legal action.
  • Climate Action Plan 2023: The Climate Action Plan 2023 (CAP23) is an annually updated statutory Plan required by Ireland’s Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021. It is the first Climate Action Plan published since the adoption of Ireland’s legally binding carbon budget programme and sets out how Ireland can accelerate the actions that are required to respond to the climate crisis, putting climate solutions at the centre of Ireland’s social and economic development.
  • Annex of Actions: The Annex of Actions provide more detail on the actions required to achieve the targets set out in the Climate Action Plan 2023. The purpose of the Annex is to drive continued delivery of climate action across all government departments and bodies in a targeted and measurable form.