BREAKING: this is a historic legal victory. And this is just the beginning.
In Sharma v Minister for the Environment, the Australian Federal Court has declared that the minister must protect Australian children from carbon pollution in certain decisions.
This is an Australian first! Let’s get the momentum going to dismantle the pillars of support for coal and gas production, which results in polluting, warming greenhouse gases.
The Court’s findings are not only premised on two particular manifestations of carbon pollution, i.e. on the risks posed by heat-waves and bushfires, but on the pollution and other possible effects of carbon emissions.
This judgement formalises the landmark judgment in May about the Australian Environment Minister’s responsibility regarding the Whitehaven Coal’s Vickery Project (NSW) extension. Minister, Sussan Ley has to take reasonable care to ensure that the coal project does not result in harm to children from greenhouse gases, which includes not approving the extension.
Lawyer David Barnden, who represented 8 students and their litigator in the landmark “Sharma v Minister for the Environment” case, said:
“It is now officially Australian law that the Federal Environment Minister has a duty to avoid causing personal injury and death to Australian children from carbon emissions when approving a coal extension project.”
“Australia’s federal court has formally declared the nation’s environment minister has a “duty to take reasonable care” that young people won’t be harmed or killed by carbon dioxide emissions if she approves a coalmine expansion, in a judgment that could have wider implications for fossil fuel projects.
In the federal court case, brought by eight schoolchildren and an octogenarian nun, Justice Mordecai Bromberg on Thursday also ordered the minister pay all costs.”
Extract from the Guardian news article
Justice Mordecai Bromberg declared that when the minister makes her decision over the coalmine, she has a duty “to take reasonable care” to “avoid causing personal injury or death” to Australian residents under 18 “arising from emissions of carbon dioxide into the Earth’s atmosphere.”
“We are delighted that the law of the land now states that the government has a duty to avoid causing harm to young people,” said Anj Sharma, a 16-year-old Melbourne student and one of the eight children supported in court by Sister Brigid Arthur.
Sharma said the “historic ruling” would make it harder for politicians “to continue to approve large-scale fossil fuel projects that will only fast-track the climate crisis.”
According to the Guardian, leading law firm King & Wood Mallesons said the judgment had implications beyond coal because it specified a duty of care in relation to “emissions of carbon dioxide into the Earth’s atmosphere”. That means it could apply to any project with a significant emissions footprint that requires Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act approval.”
The Guardian has reported Chris McGrath, a barrister and expert in climate litigation, as saying:
“As long as the declaration remains in force, the minister would have to find a way to acknowledge it before she makes a decision on the Vickery plan.
This is also relevant for other big coal and gas projects – anything with fossil fuels – the minister and the department are now conscious of potential challenges to their decisions so they’d be foolish not to take this into account for future decisions.”
But since the ruling, the Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, has ordered Sussan Ley, the Federal Environment Minister to lodge an appeal against the ruling !!
Unbelievably, the government of the day has added yet another damning choice to its repertoire. Once again, their benighted decision shows that mining company profits and lobby support are favored over the safety and health of Australian children.
Let’s show the government that if it tries to appeal this Ruling or to change the EPBC, to suit them and their cronies, that they do so at their peril, in more ways than one. The gas lobby and its supporters claim that “high quality coal” and gas is clean and essential for our economy, but this is not true according to the Australia Institute and many other sources.
People power can pressure the government into dropping the appeal. The example below is a Post on a Facebook Profile page, asking readers to comment on Sussan Ley’s page.
We need YOU to hop onto social media to let the Environment Minister know that the people of Australia will no longer stand for bad decisions which endanger young people.
Here are 2 ways you can help.
(1) Add your own comment to the following post on Minister Ley’s Facebook page.
(2) Save the following graphic to your computer and post it on your Facebook Profile page, to ask your readers to do the same.
In your post, add the link to the Minister’s page and use the hashtag #DropSharmaAppeal as shown below.
Ask Minister Ley to drop the appeal:
AND if you are a parent, please head over NOW to the PAGE BELOW to sign a petition developed by the Australian Parents for Climate Action, asking the government to drop the appeal.