News from Land & Environment Court: Climate Change case begins
David Morris at EDO NSW <email@example.com>
Aug 14 (1 day ago)
We’re at the point where we’ve only got a couple of years to start reducing greenhouse gases before we reach a tipping point …
If the court agrees with our climate scientist that this mine should not be approved, and we shouldn’t be opening up new coal reserves, that will be a game-changer.
The time is now. Be part of the change – donate today.
You’ve no doubt seen news stories of climate litigation cases all over the world – from Ireland to Holland to the USA – the result of citizens using the law to stand up for our planet.
As I write, our Solicitors and Science Director are in the Land & Environment Court as barrister Robert White makes the opening submission for our landmark case representing embattled community group Groundswell Gloucester, which is standing up to protect the community from the potentially devastating impacts of a new coal mine next to their town. You helped us get there!
I’m asking you today to consider making a further donation to continue our groundbreaking work to protect people, places, animals and nature, and make our governments accountable for decisions that affect us, our kids, grandkids and great-grandkids.
This is a once in a generation case. It is the first hearing of its kind since the historic Paris Agreement, in which a superior jurisdiction Australian court will hear expert testimony about climate change, the carbon budget and the impacts of burning fossil fuels.
The stakes are high. Total greenhouse gas emissions over the life of the proposed mine are estimated at 38 million tonnes of CO2. The mining company tried to stop our client from being a party to these proceedings. They spent a full day trying to convince the court that the arguments about climate change were inappropriate ( “a side show and a distraction”). Following our arguments, the court disagreed with that proposition and now climate change will bea key part of the full hearing.
EDO NSW is the only organisation in the State that can both test and improve the laws that exist to protect our environment and the people, plants and animals that rely on it to sustain life.
By making a one-off gift today, or becoming a Friend of the EDO monthly giver, you will provide the core support our litigation, science, education and law reform experts need to defend brave communities like Gloucester, and develop and advocate for the legal framework necessary to meet the pressing challenges of climate change.
Think about the diversity of objectors to this mine – farmers, the young, the old, conservationists, doctors. Some are opposed because of noise impacts, others worry about how the mine might tear at the fabric of their community. Some worry about their children and grandchildren and about the kind of world they will live in if mine projects like this continue to be approved.
We know that this is the thin edge of the wedge. Gloucester is at the coal face of climate change and the people there need the EDO to support and defend them against powerful opponents with deep pockets. Your donation to our Environmental Defence Fund will provide communities throughout NSW with access to justice.
This case may go down as a seminal moment in the transition away from the mining of coal. Simply, we are arguing that a new coal mine should not be approved in NSW. This argument is based on science, economics and – we argue – the proper application of the law.
Environment groups across Australia are calling on politicians to adopt better, stronger laws that put environmental protection at their heart. With your help, EDO NSW will continue to provide them.
Use the law to combat climate change
Gloucester Resources Ltd and Stratford Pty Ltd
v Groundswell Gloucester and Dept of Planning & Environment
The Client: Groundswell Gloucester, a residents’ community group concerned with the environmental, social and economic future of the Stroud Gloucester Valley near Barrington Tops in the upper Hunter.
The Case: Represented by EDO NSW, Groundswell Gloucester was joined to proceedings that will determine the fate of the Rocky Hill Coal project, a greenfield open-cut coal mine less than 5km from Gloucester township.
Representation: Matt Floro, solicitor for EDO NSW, has carriage of this matter for Groundswell Gloucester and our Principal Solicitor, Elaine Johnson, is the solicitor on record. We are grateful to barrister Robert White for his assistance in this matter.
Experts: Emeritus Professor Will Steffen will for the first time give evidence in an Australian court that no new fossil fuel developments can be approved if we are to avoid overspending our carbon budget. Professor Steffen is a Climate Councillor on the Climate Council of Australia, Member of the ACT Government’s Climate Change Council, and was previously a Climate Commissioner on the Australian Government’s Climate Commission.
Energy analyst Tim Buckley will explain the financial mechanisms and market changes that are driving investments away from coal and creating a risk that Rocky Hill will become a stranded asset. Tim Buckley is Director of Energy Finance Studies, Australasia, Institute of Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.
60 community objectors include farmers, doctors, Traditional Owners and young people. This is also the first time in an Australian court that young people will talk about the impact of climate change and the impact of the mine on their communities, and future generations.
2016 – Community celebrations after AGL withdraws its application to drill 330 coal seam gas extraction wells in the area.
December 2017 – celebrations continue when the Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) refuses consent to the Rocky Hill Coal Project proposed by Gloucester Resources Limited (GRL). The PAC found that the mine was not in the public interest because of its proximity to the town of Gloucester, significant visual impact and direct contravention of the area’s zoning plans.
The PAC also refuses consent to a Modification of the consent for the nearby Stratford mine – operated by a related company of Yancoal Australia Limited – that proposed the receipt, processing and railing of coal from the Project. The PAC found that the Modification would have no critical purpose or utility outside the Project.
Planning Minister grants both mining companies the right to appeal the refusal of consent to the Land and Environment Court.
February 2018 – Our client, Groundswell Gloucester, seeks to be joined to the proceedings.
April 2018 – following a full-day hearing, the Land and Environment Court orders that Groundswell Gloucester be joined to the proceedings brought by GRL.
In relation to the climate change ground, on joining Groundswell Gloucester, the Court noted that:
“GRL submits that the raising of the climate issue as proposed in a domestic Court if the Intervener were joined would not serve the purpose of improving this particular planning decision; and, instead, would be a “side show and a distraction”. I do not agree.”
Our client has been permitted by the Court to present expert evidence on climate change and the social impacts of this new mine. The Court will hear anthropological evidence about the social impact of mining on the community.
This is the first time an Australian court will hear expert evidence about the urgent need to stay within the global carbon budget in the context of a proposed new coal mine.
13-14 August 2018
Opening submissions at the Land and Environment Court, Macquarie Street, Sydney
15 August 2018
Site visit (parties only) Gloucester
16-17 August 2018
Hearings in Gloucester (community objectors)
20-24 & 27-31 August 2018
Submissions and expert witnesses at the Land and Environment Court, Macquarie Street, Sydney
Donate to the Environmental Defence Fund
I am so grateful for your generous donation earlier this year. Your support makes all the difference to our ability to offer our essential services at a time when the world needs us most.
CEO – Solicitor
P.S. Thank you for helping us get this far. I depend on your help to support my team of lawyers and experts to continue defending communities at the coal face – and finding legal solutions to the most pressing challenges we face today – in the way EDO does best.
A gift from you today will provide the core support our litigation, science, education and law reform experts need to defend brave communities like Gloucester, and develop and advocate for the legal framework necessary to meet the challenge of climate change.
* For coverage of the landmark Gloucester case, visit our website
EDO NSW recognises the traditional owners and custodians of the land, seas and rivers of Australia. We pay our respects to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander elders past and present, and aspire to learn from traditional knowledge and customs so that, together, we can protect our environment and cultural heritage through law.
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