Landmark climate lawsuit returns to Northern Ireland courts

Landmark climate lawsuit returns to Northern Ireland courts

Pictured (left–right): Claire Tennyson, Acland Bryant, Maria McCloskey, Colette Stewart, Hilary Perry, Emma Cassidy and Peter McGettrick.

A landmark legal challenge relating to the regulation of diesel car emissions in Northern Ireland returned to the High Court today for the first time since the return of devolved government.

Friends of the Earth Northern Ireland, represented by The Public Interest Litigation Support (PILS) Project and supported by the NI Commissioner for Children and Young People (NICCY), is challenging the long-running failure of the Department for Infrastructure to carry out emissions tests on diesel cars.

The first-of-its-kind judicial review — one of the first to rely on the Climate Change Act (Northern Ireland) 2022 in court — argues that the Department has breached its statutory vehicle testing duties and is also failing to protect public health, biodiversity and wildlife habitats.

Speaking ahead of today’s hearing, Maria McCloskey, PILS director and solicitor in the case, said: “Seventeen years — and counting — is a long time to wait for the legally required checks to be carried out on Northern Ireland’s diesel cars.

“We return to court this morning and our demands remain unchanged. We hope that the new minister will protect public health, biodiversity and air quality by reintroducing the test without further delay.”

Friends of the Earth Northern Ireland director James Orr said: “We welcome a second day for this judicial review as it’s imperative to hear what the Department for Infrastructure has to say for itself having failed for over 17 years to protect air quality from car diesel fumes.

“This should be top priority in minister O’Dowd’s in-tray. Human health and the health of our biodiversity and habitats must be protected.”

Chris Quinn, Northern Ireland’s commissioner for children and young people, said: “I hope after today’s hearing we start to see some real progress on this issue given the restoration of the Executive and minister O’Dowd now being in post. “Environmental harm is a significant threat to children’s rights, urgent changes are needed across the board.

“In August last year, the UN committee published General Comment 26 — informed by 16,000 children — in this they advised that states should immediately improve air quality, by reducing both outdoor and household air pollution, to prevent child mortality, especially among children under five years of age.

“It is long past time that this was addressed, and that action was taken to combat the problem.

“The Department of Infrastructure have not been carrying out their legal obligations for 17 years which is simply unacceptable. We want to hear what they have to say and the reasons behind why this issue has been neglected for so long.”

Share icon
Share this article: