Young people around the world are increasingly taking a leading action on climate change. One of their most effective ways of doing this has been holding governments to account through legal action. This has already been done in the Netherlands, America and Canada.
Now 8 young Australians, all under 18, have legally established that the Federal Environment Minister, Sussan Ley, owes all Australian children a duty of care when deciding whether to approve or refuse an extension to Whitehaven’s existing coal mine. This is the first time such a duty has been recognised in Australia. Although the Court did not stop the Minister from approving the mine, it found that young people face real, catastrophic and ‘reasonably foreseeable’ harm because of climate hazards.
This decision opens the door for this duty of care to be applied to all coal and gas projects currently being considered by the Minister, and potentially any consent authority in Australia. The Minister has not yet approved the mine, but has already announced that she will challenge the decision.
The expense of taking such a legal action is ruinous and beyond the means of ordinary citizens. It was only possible because the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) has run it on behalf of the children.
EDO receive some government funding, but only for providing advice to community members. Any legal actions they run have to be funded by donations and pro bono assistance from the legal profession, scientific experts and volunteers. They are running landmark, innovative litigation to protect Australia’s environment and communities, and their website lists their wonderful successes. Take the time to check it out here. Their extraordinary protection for the environment makes possible strong support for our grandchildren’s future.