A CHEMICAL ENGINEER has called for a judicial review of the Renewable Energy Action Plan which he claims is in breach of a UN agreement linking environmental and human rights.
Pat Swords, a Dublin-based chemical engineer who has been involved in implementing environmental plans for several years, was recently granted permission in the High Court to go forward with three points in a statement of grounds for application of judicial review.
Swords is questioning the legality of Ireland’s renewable energy programme and its granting of planning permission and funding for environmental projects without public participation in decision making.
He claims that the government has an obligation, under a UN agreement called the Aarhus Convention, to include the public in decisions relating to environmental project plans as well as expenditure.
“There is a major problem with our planning system in this country,” Swords told TheJournal.ie.
The environment is important, it does not belong to the state and therefore the public have to be given rights to participate in it and in the decisions that are made.
The engineer also asserts that a full and comprehensive consideration of the effects of projects, the benefits and the alternatives should be carried out.
“There have been no proper technical, environmental or economic assessments carried out so we do not know the effects of the projects that are already in place, like what greenhouse gases have been saved or will be saved under future plans,” he said. ”We also don’t know the alternatives because they haven’t been explored.”
The Irish government ratified the 1998 Aarhus Convention in June this year though it was promised by the Green Party over four years ago.
Swords said the convention is now a “binding part of European law and it is being ignored by this government.”
Last may Swords was successful in taking a case under the Aarhus Convention against the EU over its adoption of a 20 per cent target for all renewable energy by 2020.
A compliance committee of the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) found in his favour and said that the EU was in breach of the convention in setting the target “without taking account of the fact that citizens should have been consulted, in accordance with rules laid down by the convention”.
“The convention means the public have a right to information and participation on decision making and yet in Ireland there has been no assessment of noise levels for people living in the area of projects, or on the health impacts for human beings, the effect on flora and fauna etc.,” Swords said.
The engineer said this issue is particularly poignant now with electricity bills soaring and if he is successful it could mean project planning would be more competitive.
“Just because you put a green label on it doesn’t mean you can put extortionate costs on it as well,” he added.
“Can of worms”
If Swords is successful in his court action, it could mean a halt to all projects under the renewable energy plan until assessments are completed.
“It will open up a can of worms and it will delay future plans but all of this should have been done before,” he said
“I’m not saying that my ideas are better than theirs, I’m just saying that you have to follow the law and that is the law. Better governance improves the situation for everyone.”
When contacted by TheJournal.ie in relation to Swords’ court action, the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources said it had no comment to make.