Ireland’s first climate lawsuit is potentially a historic turning point

Oct 24, 2017 1 Comment by

Feasta climate group members today warmly welcomed the news that Friends of the Irish Environment has launched a legal action campaign against the Irish government’s failure to take the required action to avert dangerous climate change.

“This is exciting news,” said climate group member Caroline Whyte. “For years, powerful decision-makers in Ireland have been dangerously lethargic and passive on climate change. The recent budget announcement and reports from the EU environmental ministerial meeting in Luxembourg only confirm this impression. A strong case could be made that the government’s irresponsibility amounts to a betrayal of the Irish people.”

“Now it looks as as though it may finally be held to account.”

The lawsuit is the first of its kind in Ireland but it follows a trend of climate-based lawsuits in other countries. Erik-Jan Van Oosten, a Feasta climate group member based in the Netherlands, comments “The Urgenda case in my country set an important precedent for other jurisdictions, opening the door for the rest of the world to challenge the inaction on climate change of their governments.” Van Oosten and other climate group members have been following and analysing climate litigation in different countries over the past few years [2]. Plaintiffs in these legal cases include groups of children and teenagers in the US[3] and Portugal[4].

The Government has three weeks to file its reply to the FIE challenge (though it may take much longer) and the case should be heard in 2018.

“An obvious question that arises is, how could the Irish government forestall potential legal sanctions arising from this case?” asked Whyte. “It may try to hide behind procedural, legalistic language in order to postpone action on climate but it will have a lot of eyes on it now. We hope that it will instead embrace the action that’s needed.”

The climate group argues that the government could show substantive commitment to climate action by forming a Cap and Share partnership with a Global South country[5] in order to completely eliminate the two countries’ fossil-fuel-derived emissions together over the next three decades. “This would be impossible to slither out of via loopholes and special pleading, would support climate justice, and would help to pave the way towards establishing a global system to eliminate fossil fuel production. It would show that Ireland is capable of visionary thinking and is helping to build a better world,” commented John Jopling, a climate group member and retired barrister.

Feasta could help to broker the dialogue with the partner country. Additionally, to ensure that agricultural and other non-fossil-fuel emissions were also eliminated, the group urges the Irish government to follow the recommendations made by Feasta[6] and other NGOs and concerned citizens in their recent submissions [7] to the Citizens’ Assembly.

“Well-managed climate action would not only help to safeguard our future by protecting the climate: it could result in an economy that is fairer, that more effectively serves everyone in Ireland and that provides a better quality of life than at present,” said Whyte.

“We’ll be very interested to see how this court case unfolds. It’s potentially a historic turning point.”

References

1. https://www.friendsoftheirishenvironment.org/climate-case
2. See http://www.feasta.org/2015/07/21/can-the-law-protect-us-from-climate-change
http://www.feasta.org/2014/11/06/update-on-the-sink-or-sue-climate-litigation-project/
http://www.feasta.org/2012/12/04/revolution-justified-review/
3. https://www.ourchildrenstrust.org/
4. http://www.climatechangenews.com/2017/10/19/portuguese-kids-hit-climate-lawsuit-crowdfunding-milestone
5. http://www.capglobalcarbon.org/2017/08/11/submission-to-the-citizens-assembly/
5. http://www.feasta.org/2017/08/11/submission-to-the-citizens-assembly/
6. https://www.citizensassembly.ie/en/Submissions/How-the-State-can-make-Ireland-a-leader-in-tackling-climate-change/Submissions-Received/

Contact: Morag Friel morag.friel@feasta.org / Caroline Whyte caroline.whyte@feasta.org or +33385590215

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One Response to “Ireland’s first climate lawsuit is potentially a historic turning point”

  1. David Taylor says:

    I’ll follow this with interest – though I wish people would stop saying ‘climate change’. It sounds almost benign.

    ‘Climate disruption’ is far more accurate.

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