A class action filed by a group of eight young Aussies which argued Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley has a duty of care to protect young people from climate change has been overturned by the Federal Court.
Per the ABC, this new ruling means the class action launched in 2020 by a group of teenagers has been walked back and the protection of young Aussies no longer needs to be a consideration for the environment minister when assessing new fossil fuel projects like coal mine expansions.
The action was brought before the Federal Court last May and resulted in Justice Mordecai Bromberg agreeing the duty of care existed. It was spearheaded by then-16-year-old Anj Sharma and was largely sparked by the planned expansion of Whitehaven Coal’s Vickery project near Gunnedah in NSW.
Justice Bromberg in his judgement said climate change would cause “startling” harm to young people in Australia and a new approved coal mine would contribute to global warming.
The decision was a world-first and made global headlines, especially in countries like the United States and New Zealand where common law (unwritten laws that set the precedent, like de-facto relationships) are part of the legal system.
A case study by Environmental Law Australia into the whole thing said the group of young Aussies now have 28 days to make an appeal to the High Court to have special leave given to the case. Apparently, it’s pretty hard to get special leave OK’d — the study said around 10% of cases get approved for it.
If the group has its appeal granted, it will be heard by a panel of five judges and could lead to a truly groundbreaking decision by the High Court.