Litigating Climate Change in Ireland

Forthcoming in the Journal of Human Rights Practice, Oxford University Press

NYU School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 20-19

37 Pages Posted: 15 Jun 2020 Last revised: 17 Jun 2020

See all articles by Philip Alston

Philip Alston

New York University School of Law

Victoria Adelmant

New York University School of Law

Matthew Blainey

New York University School of Law

Date Written: June 12, 2020

Abstract

Ireland generates the third-highest level of per capita emissions of greenhouse gases in the European Union and its government has consistently recognized the need for urgent action and acknowledged any delay therein ‘will only create more consequences for society and ultimately cost us more to make the transition’. But its 2017 National Mitigation Plan, which it was required to adopt under the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act (2015), was generally agreed to reflect policies that would not enable Ireland to meet its targets in 2020 or beyond.

A legal challenge to the Plan brought by Friends of the Irish Environment led the High Court to acknowledge in 2019 that the group had standing to challenge the Plan and to accept, for the purposes of the case, that the Irish Constitution includes an ‘unenumerated’, or derived, right to a healthy environment. But the High Court rejected the challenge for several reasons and concluded that the government enjoyed considerable discretion in how to respond to global warming and how to satisfy the strictures of the Act.

This article examines the principal issues that the Irish Supreme Court will have to consider when it hears the appeal by the FIE in June 2020. It addresses the questions of standing, justiciability, the applicable standard of review, the right to a healthy environment under Irish law, and the interpretive role of the constitutional Directive Principles of Social Policy.

Keywords: Climate change, Ireland, human rights, Irish Supreme Court

JEL Classification: K32, K33, K41

Suggested Citation

Alston, Philip and Adelmant, Victoria and Blainey, Matthew, Litigating Climate Change in Ireland (June 12, 2020). Forthcoming in the Journal of Human Rights Practice, Oxford University Press, NYU School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 20-19, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3625951 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3625951

Philip Alston (Contact Author)

New York University School of Law ( email )

40 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012-1099
United States

Victoria Adelmant

New York University School of Law ( email )

40 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012-1099
United States

Matthew Blainey

New York University School of Law ( email )

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