Students hopeful as High Court hears climate change case

The High Court heard of the “disturbing state of affairs” of the state action

Students are eagerly awaiting the results of a case taken against the government’s National Mitigation Plan (NMP), which argued that the plan would see greenhouse gas emissions rise rather than fall, with students among those campaigning for the cause.

Friends of the Irish Environment, a group of environmental activists campaigning as “Climate Case Ireland”, argued that the government’s plan was a violation of its responsibility to uphold the constitutional rights to life and a healthy environment, due to its failure to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Speaking to Trinity News, Union of Students in Ireland (USI) President, Síona Cahill, stated: “The courtroom itself was crowded – kids sitting with colouring books, people breastfeeding, students in every corner – everyone packed in and sitting on the floor in total silence listening to the arguments.”

“The growing strength of the environmental movement demonstrated over the course of even these few days has shown that we mean it when we say this is an issue we won’t be shutting up about any time soon,” Cahill continued.

“We are happy with how the case went, but there won’t be a result for some time,” said Cahill.

In his closing argument, Brian Kennedy, counsel for Friends of the Irish Environment, called the plan “not fit for purpose” and the cause of a “disturbing state of affairs” in the management of greenhouse gas emissions. Claims that the NMP breached human rights centred on the argument that it was vague and did not fully set out the steps the country must take to reduce emissions.

During the four day case, the court heard the argument from the State’s counsel, that as a company limited by guarantee, Friends of the Irish Environment does not have standing to “assert an entitlement to those rights” on behalf of another person.

The case sparked significant attention, with chairs in the public gallery filled as listeners watched the case play out, leading others to sit on the floor.

Trinity students were among demonstrators at a rally outside Leinster House in favour of the case last weekend. The rally drew around 300 supporters, with an online petition collecting 10,000 signatures in support of the case.

Cahill addressed the crowd, outlining that “the student movement is committed” to climate action. Cahill commended Trinity’s fossil free campaign, and “other unreal work” taking place on campuses throughout the country. She said she was “not prepared” to accept government inaction on climate change.

Lauren Boland

Lauren Boland was the Editor of the 67th volume of Trinity News. She is an English Literature and Sociology graduate and previously served as Deputy Editor, News Editor and Assistant News Editor.