Court forces Australia to protect children from climate change

Sydney, Australia, May 27 (EFE).- An Australian court ruled Thursday that government has the duty to protect the health of minors against the effects of climate change, in an unprecedented trial against the expansion of a coal mine in the country after a lawsuit filed by eight teenagers.

After their lawsuit was filed in September, the minors argued in the trial held in March before the Melbourne Federal Court, that the expansion of the Vickery mine will cause an emission of 370 million tons of carbon in the next 25 years .

This polluting emission is equivalent to 70 percent of Australia’s total domestic emission in 2019.

In the summary of the lengthy ruling published Thursday, Judge Mordecai Bromberg said that the court has determined that Environment Minister Sussan Ley “has an obligation to exercise reasonable care not to cause personal harm to children” when deciding about the expansion of this mine.

However, the judge dismissed the request of 17-year-old activist Anjali Sharma and seven other students from the School Strike 4 Climate student movement, represented by a nun, for the court to issue an order prohibiting that minister exercise powers to authorize the expansion.

In dismissing the petition, the judge said “the court will give the parties the opportunity to present new arguments on the usefulness and terms of the orders and statements that should be issued now, reflecting the reasons for the Court’s ruling.”

Under the ruling, the environment minister will not be able to adopt measures that harm minors, but the parties have yet to prove that the expansion of Vickery, of the Australian miner Whitehaven Coal, represents a risk for them.

Following the lawsuit, the Melbourn Federal Court accepted independent expert evidence regarding carbon emissions from mines and the burning of fossil fuels to assess the impact on children’s health.

David Barnden, the youth lawyer, told EFE that the ruling is of great importance “for the development of environmental laws,” adding that the judge has yet to specify “the meaning of this obligation to protect (the minors,)” so additional documents must be submitted in early June to support the arguments.

Ava Princi, 17, highlighted in a statement from the firm Equity Generation Lawyers that represents them, that “it is the first time a court, anywhere in the world, has ordered a government to specifically protect young people from the catastrophic damages of climate change.”

On the other hand, Whitehaven Coal said in a statement that “this lawsuit has no merit,” adding that the company seeks to exploit “a high quality coal that contributes to the efforts of CO2 emissions while supporting economic development in the region.”

The expansion of the mine would provide a net benefit of about $ 869 million dollars to the state of New South Wales and would create about 950 jobs, according to the Australian company Whiteheaven Coal, in charge of the project. EFE


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