SYDNEY COURT RULES COAL CLIMATE HAZARD
A Sydney court judge has concluded that human-made hydrocarbon emissions - caused from the burning of fossil fuels - are creating greenhouse gases that are warming the climate.
The ruling to refuse a new open-cut coal mine in the Hunter Valley, a short drive from Sydney, has reverberated across communities fighting coal and coal seam gas in Australia.
It was the first time an Australian court had heard expert evidence about the urgent need to stay within a global carbon budget in the context of a proposed new coal mine.
The Environmental Defenders Office of NSW said the judgment is generally applicable to any coal mine in Australia.
As well, the court’s conclusions have international implications in USA and Europe where climate campaigners seek out legal alternatives for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
Presiding judge Brian Preston in the New South Wales Land and Environment Court found climate change to be one of the more important factors to consider under State legislation and that he had based his findings on relevant scientific evidence.
The findings have been described as a significant court determination on the mitigation of potentially disastrous climate change.
Justice Preston was presiding over a over case between the NSW Planning Minister and Gloucester Resources on February 8 and concluded that the mine project was “in the wrong place at the wrong time”
GHG emissions of coal mines and coal products increase global total concentrations of GHGs at a time when what is now urgently needed, in order to meet generally agreed climate targets, is a rapid and deep decrease in GHG emissions, he stated.
Justice Preston noted that “all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions contribute to climate change,” and given increasing global momentum to tackle climate change, he noted that other countries may well follow this lead in rejecting future coalmine proposals.
Greenhouse gas emissions of the coal mine - and its coal product – would increase total global concentrations at a time when what is now urgently needed to meet generally agreed climate targets is a rapid and deep decrease, Justice Preston concluded.
Justice Preston’s findings recognized an acceptance of the need for a carbon budget to keep global average temperatures from rising more than 1.5 to 2 de- grees compared to pre-industrial times, as agreed in the Paris climate accord.
Such a budget for human emissions will mean “most fossil fuel reserves will need to remain in the ground unburned”, Justice Preston concluded.
Judge Brian Presion