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Supreme Court climate ruling must spur urgent Government action to reduce emissions faster

31 Jul 2020





For immediate release

31st July 2020

The judgement will have significant ramifications both nationally and internationally.

Government must act now to reduce emissions in the short term and deliver a new stronger climate law within its first 100 days with ambitious 5 year carbon budgets.

In a groundbreaking judgement, the Supreme Court has ruled that the Irish Government’s plan to reduce rising greenhouse gas emissions is not sufficient [1]. The 2017 National Mitigation Plan was found to be unlawful by the Supreme Court because the Plan did not specify the manner in which it proposed to achieve the ‘national transition objective’, as required by the Climate Act 2015 [2]. This landmark case has shown that governments everywhere can be, and will be, held accountable for their legal obligations to act on the climate crisis, in court.

Welcoming the judgement, Oisin Coghlan, Director of Friends of the Earth said:

"The Government already had a scientific, political and moral obligation to step up its efforts to cut climate-polluting emissions . Now the Supreme Court has ruled it has a legal obligation as well."

“We need bigger emission reductions - and we need the specific policies and measures to deliver them. Emission reductions must also be made fairly - the case for faster and fairer climate action has just become a whole lot stronger.”

The Supreme Court’s judgement demonstrates that Ireland’s policy and accountability mechanisms to ensure adequate climate action are not currently strong enough.

Commenting on this, Oisin Coghlan, continued:

“Irish citizens shouldn’t have had to go to court to protect ourselves from climate impacts. We shouldn’t have had to resort to legal action to make the Government fulfil its own promises. It shouldn’t have come to this. The era of unfulfilled promises on climate action must end today. Mechanisms to ensure rapid emission reductions in the short term must be introduced now. A stronger climate law within the Government’s first 100 days - with ambitious 5 year carbon budgets - is essential”

The case was taken by Friends of the Irish Environment, on behalf of 20863 concerned citizens [3]. It was taken against the Government, Ireland and the Attorney General. It is the first case of its kind in Ireland and only the second case in the world in which the highest national court of law has required a Government to revise its national climate policy.

Concluding, Oisín Coghlan commented:

“We all owe a great debt of gratitude to Friends of the Irish Environment who took the case to test the strength of the Climate Action Act 2015 to hold the Government of Ireland to account for their failure of climate policy and political leadership. As a result the Government’s last excuse for dithering and delay is gone. It’s time for action.”



  1. The full text of the judgement (unapproved) can be found here.
  2. The 2017 National Mitigation Plan has been strongly criticised by the government’s own Climate Change Advisory Council, who stated that Ireland is “completely off course,” in terms of achieving its 2020 and 2030 EU emission reductions targets and that Ireland’s emissions are “disturbing”.
  3. Friends of the Irish Environment refer to the case as “Climate Case Ireland”. You can read more about it here.

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