Climate Case Ireland call on Government to recognise environmental rights


10 June 2021

Climate Case Ireland have penned an open letter to the Irish Government calling for a Citizens’ Assembly on the biodiversity crisis and the constitutional right to a healthy and sustainable environment.

The organisation that successfully won a landmark case against the
Government last summer presented the letter to the Department of Climate Action
today and are urging the Government to hold a Citizen’s Assembly on
Biodiversity Loss before the Dáil breaks for its summer recess in mid-July.

A constitutional right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment and the principles of a Just Transition are also included amongst their asks.

 In 2019, the Dáil
officially declared a climate and biodiversity emergency and called for such a
Citizens’ Assembly measure to examine how the State can improve its response to
biodiversity loss.

Just a year later, the
Programme for Government committed to “progressing the establishment of a
Citizen’s Assembly on Biodiversity”, but since its publication no further
announcements have been made.

Notably, The Supreme
Court rejected last year a possible judicial recognition of a right to a
healthy environment. 

The Supreme Court stated that the “advantage
of express incorporation is that the precise type of constitutional right to
the environment which is to be recognised can be the subject of debate and
democratic approval.”

Campaigners from Climate Case Ireland mark their historic win Photo: Climate Case Ireland

Ireland is “in the minority”

The lack of environmental
rights enshrined in the constitution makes Ireland a international outlier,
according to Matthew Mollahan of Climate Case Ireland.

“Ireland is one of the minority of countries that actually doesn’t have
any environmental rights as part of our constitution, over three quarters of
countries in the world actually do.

Having those rights enshrined in the constitution would be a useful tool
in developing further climate legislation and protecting existing climate
legislation from the whims of future governments,” Mr. Mollahan told The
Green News.

The move would also reflect a recent submission Ireland was a part
of to the UN Human Rights Council in March, according to Climate Case Ireland.

Alongside 68 other countries, Ireland signed a statement put
forward to the Council which stated that a “safe, clean, healthy, and
sustainable environment is integral to the full enjoyment of human rights.”  

The document goes on to say Ireland is committed to an “open,
transparent and inclusive dialogue” on a global level to the possible
recognition of the right and its impact on future generations. 

However, while Mr. Mollahan welcomed the statement, the sentiment
needs to translate into a national context.

“Statements at an international level are very important, but we need to see that actualised then within Ireland,” he said.

Story by Thomas Hamilton and Shauna Burdis. Photo by Kayle Crosson.

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