Australia must weigh climate risks in coal project: Court

SYDNEY • Australia's government has been ordered to consider risks posed to young people from climate change in a looming decision on a coal mine expansion - a ruling that could set a precedent for all fossil fuel projects.

Environment Minister Sussan Ley must assess the consequences of additional greenhouse gas emissions from raw materials produced if Whitehaven Coal is permitted to extend an operation in New South Wales, Judge Mordy Bromberg said in yesterday's ruling at the Federal Court of Australia.

"The risk of harm that the minister must take reasonable care to avoid is personal injury or death to the children arising from the emission of carbon dioxide from the burning of coal extracted from the extension project," Judge Bromberg said.

Whitehaven declined to comment on the judgment.

It is the latest legal challenge to the fossil fuel industry as climate campaigners seek to use courts to press companies to accelerate efforts to address global warming.

Judge Bromberg had earlier dismissed an injunction aimed at halting the mine expansion sought by campaigners in Australia, a group that includes an elderly nun and Greta Thunberg-inspired teenagers.

The decision in their favour that the government must weigh climate risks will likely complicate the task of considering Whitehaven's proposal.

The judgment could pose challenges to any applications for the approval of new fossil fuel projects in Australia, a key global producer of coal and liquefied natural gas. Australia's government "will review the judgment closely and assess all available options", Ms Ley's office said in a statement.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 09, 2021, with the headline 'Australia must weigh climate risks in coal project: Court'. Subscribe