AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT FACES CLASS ACTION FROM CLIMATE-CONSCIOUS TEENS
Eight teenagers from across Australia have jointly filed a class action lawsuit to stop the expansion of Whitehaven’s Coal Vickery coal mine in Gunnedah. This suit is the latest in a rising trend of climate litigation in the country, coming just two months after 23-year-old Katta O’Donnell sued the Australian government for failing to disclose financial risks in its investments caused by climate change (Reuters and Guardian).
Though connected to a rising tide of youth climate action, observers say that the mechanisms in the Whitehaven case are unique (ABC). Rather than filing for an injunction based on environmental law, these teens and their counsel opted instead to appeal to the government’s common-law duty of care (Guardian). The claimants argue that Australia’s Environment Minister, Susan Ley, cannot approve the proposed expansion because the ensuing greenhouse gas emissions would worsen climate change and endanger their futures, a violation of her responsibility to safeguard their well-being. If they are successful, they could create a powerful precedent, greatly increasing the difficulty of siting future coal projects in the country (Sydney Morning Herald and ABC).
If the proposed mine expansion is carried out, experts estimate it will create approximately 100 million tons of CO2 equivalent, an amount almost equal to the sum of emissions generated by all forms of Australian domestic transportation annually (ABC). However, estimates released by Whitehaven project that the expansion would create as many as 450 jobs and generate $930 million of state economic benefit (Reuters).