Media release

A small environment group from Central Queensland is bitterly disappointed and considering its legal options after the Full Federal Court today refused appeals in the landmark Living Wonders climate cases.

The Environment Council of Central Queensland (ECoCeQ) took Australia’s Environment Minister and two big coal companies to court for failing to protect our environment from climate harm from new coal and gas projects.

The full bench of the Federal Court today upheld Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek’s refusal to properly assess the climate impact of the two huge new coal mine expansions in NSW: Narrabri and Mount Pleasant.

ECoCeQ had argued the Environment Minister’s refusal to act on the climate risks of the huge coal mine expansions was irrational, illogical and unlawful.

Mining companies Narrabri Coal Operations (a subsidiary of Whitehaven Coal) and MACH Energy joined the Minister in court, defending her refusal to act on the scientific evidence of climate risk.

Today, Australia’s Full Federal Court found that, under our current environment laws, the Environment Minister is not legally required to assess risk to the environment from the climate harm of these coal mine expansions.

When Australia’s Environment Minister assessed the risk of these coal mines, and when she defended her decisions in the Federal Court, she used what is known as the “market substitution” argument or “drug-dealers defence”, as well as “drop in the ocean” logic.

ECoCeQ argued this is dangerous logic that is out of step with the law, with science and with public expectations.

For years, mining companies and politicians have rolled out the drug dealers’ defence to deflect responsibility for the climate harm of new coal and gas mines.

Last month, Minister Plibersek backed away from delivering once-in-a generation reforms to Australia’s environment laws in this term of government, despite promising to end extinction and acknowledging the urgent need for climate action.

Vision of the Mount Pleasant mine is available here.

Ashleigh Wyles from the Environment Council of Central Queensland said:

“We are devastated and heartbroken by today’s decision.

We’re afraid this decision will open the floodgates for the Minister to approve dozens of new goal and gas projects currently on her desk.

Instead of standing up to fossil fuel companies, our Environment Minister is standing with them in court, defending her refusal to act on the climate harm of new coal and gas mines.

The science is clear. We are in a climate crisis, and every new coal and gas project is pouring more fuel on the fire.

Today’s decision leaves the Environment Minister with a choice – she can do her one job of protecting the environment, or she can put her in the sand and refuse to even look at the climate harm of these very large coal mines.

We are devastated but we are not giving up. We are considering all legal options – because the future of our climate and all our living wonders is at stake.”

EJA Co-CEO Elizabeth McKinnon said:

“Our client is dismayed that under law as it currently stands, it is somehow not the Environment Minister’s job to protect our environment from the climate harm of new coal and gas mines.

This judgement today does not change the science. What it does show is that Australia’s environment laws are utterly broken.

Our laws are failing to keep up with the climate crisis. They are failing to protect the iconic places, plants and animals of this country from the devastation of climate change.”

CONTACT: Jem Wilson, 03 8341 3110, [email protected]