Currently, Australians everywhere are experiencing the effects of climate change through catastrophic bushfires and extreme flooding. We are in the critical decade for climate action, and this window of opportunity to change is rapidly closing.
In May 2021, a cohort of Australian teenagers sought to fight for climate justice in the Federal Court, and it was found that Federal Environment Minister, Sussan Ley, owed the younger generations a duty of care to prevent climate harm, and consider this duty in approving the mine expansion.
Justice Mordecai Bromberg stated that climate change would be
“the greatest intergenerational injustice ever inflicted by one generation of humans upon the next”.
However this decision was appealed (Minister for the Environment v Sharma ), and the full bench of the Federal Court unanimously rejected the 2021 decision. The current ruling is that Ms Ley does not have a duty of care to protect the younger generations from climate change harm, despite the consisted protesting of young climate activists who argue that expansions would endanger their future and cause injury, ill-health and economic losses.
The primary reason for this ruling was that the control of emissions, and protection of the public from personal injury caused by effects of climate change, were not responsibilities of Members of Parliament (as under current laws). It was also said that there was a “lack of causally connected foreseeable harm… as opposed to a tiny contribution to a sate of overall risk for the future” when approving of mine expansion.
Anjali Sharma (17), one of the young activists, was left devastated by the ruling, however recognised that this is just the beginning of change:
“This case demonstrates that young people are determined to be heard on this issue at the highest levels. We’re proud of representing young people in Australia and fighting to hold people in power responsible for their actions” she says.
Irrespective of the Court’s decision, we should all fight for climate justice and create a safe future for the younger generations.
If you or someone you know wish to discuss this matter further, then please contact our experienced solicitors at 02 8999 9809 for assistance.