The case of Pat Swords versus the Department of Energy etc continues. See here and here for its history. The media is strangely quiet. At stake is an injunction to halt the National Renewable Energy Action Plan (NREAP), but this case has ramifications for all relations between the rulers and the ruled, and for Ireland’ sovereignty.
There have been two sessions of the High Court, one on April 12 and one of April 16.
State argued that the case should be thrown out because the Aarhus Convention does not apply as it had not been ratified at the time the NREAP was accepted by the European Commission in 2010. This argument was rejected. Even though Ireland did not ratify the Aarhus Convention until 2012, the European Union had ratified it in 2005. Therefore, Ireland must comply with Aarhus.
Read that again: Ireland is subject to an international treaty it did not ratify.
The session is adjourned till June. State now has to engage substantively with the ruling of the Aarhus Compliance Committee, which has that Ireland failed to properly inform its citizens about NREAP and its impact and did not allow them sufficient time to engage with policy making.
The saga of Pat Swords v The World continues to unfold. Not content with having the UN-ECE Compliance Committee of the Aarhus Convention declare that EU renewables policy violates procedural obligations with regard to sound policy making, Pat has now sought, and found, a legal review of the Irish implementation of that policy, specifically, the National Renewable Energy Action Plan and the REFIT scheme. The case will be before the High Court on January 15.
To be continued.
The UN-ECE Compliance Committee of the Aarhus Convention has now ruled in the case Pat Swords v European Union. The ruling has implications far beyond this case.
To recap, Pat is no friend of renewable energy. He complained about the government’s renewable energy policy to every authority in Ireland and was either ignored or told to go away. So he complained to every European authority with the same result. And so he complained to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe under the Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision Making and Access of Justice in Environmental Matters.
In February 2011, the Committee admitted Pat’s complaint. This is significant. Ireland did not ratify the Aarhus Convention. The EU did, however. Because Brussels handed down its renewable energy policy, Dublin is bound by Aarhus.
This sets a precedent. Any Irish policy that is somehow proscribed, inspired, or constrained by EU policy, is now subject to Aarhus.
The Committee has now issued its draft ruling. It is long and complex. It is silent on the policy itself. On procedural issues, two points stand:
- Ireland made a mess of its public consultation on the National Renewable Energy Action Plan.
- The European Commission failed in its duty to supervise Ireland.
- Anything in the NREAP can now be challenged.
- Consultation on the NREAP was not pretty, but it was not particularly ugly by Irish standards either. Other government plans can now be challenged too.
- And the EU has been told to intrude more.