Australian court scraps ruling requiring mine projects to weigh climate harm
Sydney, Australia, Mar 15 (EFE).- An Australian court on Tuesday overturned a landmark ruling from last year that required the environment minister to have a duty of care to protect young people from climate change harm in approving new fossil fuel projects.
Three judges at the Federal Court of Australia in Melbourne ruled unanimously in favor of the appeal filed by Environment Minister Sussan Ley against the decision issued in May 2021.
Eight students from the School Strike 4 Climate began a legal battle in 2020 against an extension of the Vickery coal mine in New South Wales for its future negative effects on the climate and the emission of an estimated 370 million tons of carbon over the next 25 years.
According to the children’s complaint, the emissions – equivalent to 70 percent of Australia’s total domestic emissions in 2019 – would endanger the health of minors and cause economic damage.
Last year, the court dismissed the teens’ application to prevent the minister from approving the coal mine extension, but found she owed a duty of care to Australia’s young people.
However, the magistrates said Tuesday that “duty should not be imposed” on a decision by the minister.
Justice Michael Wheelahan expressed in the ruling that he was not convinced “that it is reasonably foreseeable that the approval of the extension to the coal mine would be a cause of personal injury to the respondents or those whom they represent, as the concept of causation is understood for the purposes of the common law tort of negligence.”
After the ruling, Anjali Sharma, one of the students who brought the case, expressed her disappointment in the court’s decision and highlighted the natural disasters such as bushfires and floods that country continues to experience.
“Two years ago, Australia was on fire; today, it’s underwater,” Sharma, 17, said in a statement.
“Burning coal makes bushfires and floods more catastrophic and more deadly. Something needs to change.”
Greenpeace Australia Pacific in a tweet said the ruling was “hugely disappointing” and saluted “the grace and strength of the young people involved in the case.”
“You have changed the story on climate in Australia, and inspired us all,” it said.
The expansion of the mine, which was approved in September 2021, would provide a net benefit of some $869 million and create some 950 jobs, according to the Australian company Whiteheaven Coal, in charge of the project. EFE