Australian teens lose bid to block coal mine expansion | World news
By ROD McGUIRK, Associated Press
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) – A group of eight teenage Australian environmentalists lost their candidacy in court on Thursday to force the federal government to ban a coal mine expansion.
But their lawyer claimed victory in the Federal Court ruling that the government has a duty to prevent future climate damage.
The plaintiffs, aged 13 to 17, argued that Environment Minister Sussan Ley had a duty to protect young people from climate change. Ley is considering whether to approve an expansion of the Vickery mine in the state of New South Wales, and the teens have sought an injunction preventing the expansion.
Judge Mordy Bromberg rejected their offer, noting that the expansion of the mine owned by Whitehaven Coal would result in the extraction of an additional 33 million metric tonnes (36 million US tonnes) of coal over 25 years and 100 million metric tons (110 million US tons). ) carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere.
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Bromberg ruled that Ley owed a duty of care to the children under negligence law, but said he was not convinced it was reasonably understood that Ley would violate his duty of care to the children.
Bromberg found there was a real risk that the extension of the mine near the town of Gunnedah would cause a “small but measurable increase in global average surface temperatures.”
Perhaps the most surprising of the potential damage demonstrated by the evidence in court is that one million Australian children today are expected to suffer from at least one episode of heat stress severe enough to require acute care in a hospital, ”Bromberg said.
“Thousands of people will suffer premature death from heat stress or smoke from bushfires. Substantial economic losses and material damage will be suffered. The Great Barrier Reef and most of the eucalyptus forests of eastern Australia will no longer exist due to repeated and violent bushfires, ”he added.
Children’s lawyer David Barnden has said he sees the judgment as a victory.
“The court concluded that the minister owed a duty of care to young children, vulnerable people, and that duty says the minister must not act in a way that will cause future damage from climate change to younger people,” Barnden told reporters.
“It’s an incredible decision … an incredible recognition that those in power must not harm young people with their decisions,” added Barnden.
Ley’s office said she would review the judgment before making a public statement.
The case echoes a ruling in Germany last month in which the Supreme Court said the government needs to set clear targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions after 2030, arguing that existing legislation risked impose too heavy a burden for reducing climate change on the younger generations.
The verdict was a victory for climate activists from Germany and elsewhere who – with the support of environmental groups – had filed four complaints with the Constitutional Court, arguing that their rights were threatened by the lack of sufficient targets beyond the next decade.
This month, German officials proposed that the country advance the date for reducing its greenhouse gas emissions to “net zero” to 2045.
In Australia, the teens who complained were led by Anjali Sharma, 17, with the help of a so-called litigation guardian, Catholic nun Sister Brigid Arthur, 86.
One of the children, Ava Princi, 17, described the judgment as a relief and asked Ley to make sure the mine extension never happened.
“This is the first time that a court around the world has recognized that a government minister has a duty to protect young people from the catastrophic harms of climate change,” Princi told reporters.
“My future and that of all young people depend on Australia pulling out of fossil fuel projects and jumping into the world to take decisive action,” she said.
“This case concerned young people who mobilized and demanded more of adults whose actions determine our future well-being,” she added.
The judge asked the children’s lawyers and the minister to make further submissions by June 3 on the orders he should render based on his reasons for judgment.
As the driest continent after Antarctica, Australia is particularly vulnerable to extreme weather conditions associated with climate change.
Australia’s hottest and driest year in 2019 has come to a catastrophic conclusion with drought-fueled forest fires that killed at least 33 people, destroyed more than 3,000 homes and razed 19 million hectares (47 million acres).
Australia is also one of the world’s largest exporters of coal and liquefied natural gas and has been criticized for not setting more ambitious targets to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.
A Dutch court on Wednesday ordered Royal Dutch Shell to reduce its carbon emissions by 45% net by 2030 from 2019 levels in a landmark case brought by climate activism groups. The court ruled that the energy giant had a duty to cut emissions and that its current reduction plans were insufficient.
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