Environmental group challenges Government's Sectoral Emissions Ceilings

Environmental Group Challenges Government's Sectoral Emissions Ceilings
The group claim the figure of 26 million tonnes of unallocated savings is "plucked from the sky"
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High Court Reporters

An environmental group has brought a High Court action challenging the Government's inclusion of what is claimed is  a “convenient device” in its programme for setting greenhouse gas limits for each sector of the Irish economy.

The Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) group wants the court to quash the Sectoral Emissions Ceilings (SECs) approved by the Government last July.


FIE takes issue with a provision for “unallocated savings” of 26 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, for the period of 2026 to 2030, which the Government hopes will come about thanks to “emerging technologies, changing scientific consensus or policies”.

A Government document published last September says SECs refer to the total amount of permitted greenhouse gas emissions that each sector of the economy can produce during five-year time periods, with later periods requiring further reductions in emissions.

The Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act of 2015 commits Ireland to a legally-binding target of a climate neutral economy no later than 2050 and to a 51 per cent reduction (from 2018 levels) in emissions by 2030.  Section 6c of the Act provides for the preparation of SECs.

The Minister for the Environment says he intends to “fully allocate the unallocated savings on a whole-of economy basis as soon as possible”.


Unallocated emissions

In its court case, FIE says these savings may never materialise and there is “notably” no equivalent provision made for unallocated emissions increases that may transpire.

The figure of 26 million tonnes for unallocated savings seems to have been “picked from the sky”, the group claims.

It exceeds the ceiling allocated for the electricity sector (20 million tonnes) and the residential sector (23 million tonnes), FIE adds.

The unallocated savings is a “convenient device” that appears to have been used to try to deal with a political and legal problem in relation to the level of agricultural emissions, but it has “no justified basis” in the Climate Act, the group claims.


The environmental association further alleges legal deficits in the Minister’s decision to defer for 18 months preparing and adopting an SEC for a sector relating to land use and forestry.

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FIE says the Government attempted to justify this deferral by describing the sector as “novel and emerging”, with updated findings on the area due.

On Monday FIE, through its counsel John Kenny instructed by O’Connell Clarke Solicitors, sought the court’s permission to pursue its action.

Mr Justice Charles Meenan directed that the application seeking leave be brought after the respondent Minister for the Environment, Ireland and the Attorney General have been formally notified of the case.

He adjourned the proceedings until March 28th.

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