The Environment Council of Central Queensland has filed two appeals to the full bench of the Federal Court, challenging the Australian Environment Minister’s refusal to scrutinise new coal and gas projects for their climate harm.
The appeals have been listed for a 2-day hearing on 12 and 13 February 2024.
Defending our living wonders from climate harm
A small volunteer environment group – the Environment Council of Central Queensland (ECoCeQ) – is bringing the fate and future of our Living Wonders before the Court.
Represented by Environmental Justice Australia, ECoCeQ argues the science is clear: new coal mine expansions like Whitehaven’s Narrabri and MACH’s Mount Pleasant pose a serious and irreversible threat to our climate and to thousands of threatened animals, plants and places across Australia.
They argue the Minister acted unlawfully when she refused to accept the climate harm these projects are likely to cause, as outlined in thousands of scientific reports, including from the IPCC and her own department.
If successful, ECoCeQ hopes these cases will transform how Australia’s Environment Ministers now and into the future assess climate risk – so the climate harm of every new coal or gas mine can never be ignored again.
This is about all of us
This is about all of us. Koalas and platypuses. Green turtles, dugongs and Tassie devils. Bilbies and bats and big old trees. It’s about birds that traverse the planet to nest in our internationally recognised wetlands, and whales that nurse their calves in our seas.
It’s about delicate alpine ecosystems, thunderous waterfalls, miraculous deserts and ochre-toned escarpments. It’s about the living cultural heritage of First Nations people. It’s about Kakadu. The Tarkine. The Reef.
And it’s about all the extraordinary animals, reptiles, birds, plants, heritage and places we want our children and their children to know and love.
These animals, plants and places are so iconic and unique, they are protected under Australia’s national environment law. Our environment minister, Tanya Plibersek, is legally obliged to keep them safe from harm.
It’s time to face this
Our climate is breaking down. These new coal and gas proposals would make this already devastating situation much, much worse.
Australia already has one of the worst extinction records on Earth. Our reefs and river systems are collapsing. In many parts of Australia, even koalas are at risk of extinction.
But the future is not yet written. We are writing it now.
In July 2022, ECoCeQ submitted 19 legal requests and an enormous vault of evidence to Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek
This intervention compelled the Minister to reconsider nearly all of the new coal and gas proposals currently awaiting federal approval.
These projects – like Woodside’s North West Shelf and Whitehaven’s Narrabri coal mine expansion – would each have a vast and irreversible impact on our climate and devastate thousands of nationally significant animals, plants and places.
When Minister Plibersek accepted ECoCeQ’s reconsideration requests as valid, thousands of people across the continent wrote public comments about each project, calling on her to listen to the science and act.
However in May 2023, Minister Plibersek refused to act on the scientific evidence.
She decided the climate harms identified in thousands of pages of evidence are not relevant to her risk assessment for three huge coal mines: Mount Pleasant in the Upper Hunter Valley, Narrabri Coal Mine in NSW, and Ensham Queensland’s Bowen Basin.
Now, ECoCeQ is taking the Minister to the Federal Court.
The volunteers from a small central Queensland environmental group would rather not go to court.
But they feel they have no choice. They are motivated by their love for our Living Wonders, and their our terror as they watch bushfires, floods and heatwaves decimate them.
They are supported by a group of “Friends of Living Wonders”, including First Nations leaders, scientists, wildlife carers and young people.