Date of text
Sabin Center
Court name
High Court of Ireland
Reference number
Record No.2018/391 JR
Climate Change

In April 2020, the Irish High Court dismissed a challenge to Ireland's National Planning Framework (NPF). The plaintiff Friends of the Irish Environment had argued, among other things, that the Government failed to properly analyze the NPF's impact on climate change.

In February 2018 the Government of Ireland published the NPF which, along with the National Development Plan, maps out the general goals for Ireland for the period leading up to 2040. In the course of preparing the NPF the Government developed a strategic environmental assessment (SEA). Ten National Strategic Outcomes were identified: Compact Growth, Enhanced Regional Accessibility, Strengthened Rural Economies and Communities, High Quality International Connectivity, Sustainable Mobility, A Strong Economy, Enhanced Amenities and Heritage, Transition to Sustainable Energy, Sustainable Management of Water, Waste and other environmental resources, and Access to Quality Child Care, Education and Health Services. The Government determined that a policy option called Regional Effectiveness and Settlement Diversity would best suit the needs of the country in achieving the National Strategic Outcomes while accounting for projected population growth.

In May 2018, Friends of the Irish Environment filed this action against the Government of Ireland; the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government; and the Attorney General. The group challenged the NPF on a number of grounds, including that the Government failed to assess the NPF's effects on climate change when preparing the SEA. The complaint alleged that the government was required to not only identify the likely increases in greenhouse gas emissions that would occur under the NPF, but also analyze the climate impacts of those emissions. The court rejected this claim, reasoning that a quantitative assessment of the NPF's likely effect on climactic factors is not feasible because the NPF is a policy document that does not permit any specific development or project. The court further reasoned that the NPF does contain provisions designed to reduce the effects of climate change that the NPF causes. The court concluded that the SEA's consideration of climate change was therefore sufficient.

Key environmental legal questions

Whether Irish Government inadequately considered National Planning Framework's climate impacts.