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A global crash in insect populations has found its way to Australia, with entomologists across the country reporting lower than average numbers of wild insects.
University of Sydney entomologist Dr Cameron Webb said researchers around the world widely acknowledge that insect populations are in decline, but are at a loss to determine the cause.
“On one hand it might be the widespread use of insecticides, on the other hand it might be urbanisation and the fact that we’re eliminating some of the plants where it’s really critical that these insects complete their development,” Dr Webb said.
“Add in to the mix climate change and sea level rise and it’s incredibly difficult to predict exactly what it is.”
‘It’s left me dumbfounded’
Entomologist and owner of the Australian Insect Farm, near Innisfail in far north Queensland, Jack Hasenpusch is usually able to collect swarms of wild insects at this time of year.
“I’ve been wondering for the last few years why some of the insects have been dropping off and put it down to lack of rainfall,” Mr Hasenpusch said.
Well it’s been a huge week for everyone at EDO, and our clients across NSW.
Firstly we had the report from the SA Royal Commission into the Murray-Darling Basin, which validated the legal advice and submissions we’ve made over the past several years and reinforced the pressing need for the policy changes our expert staff are recommending.
Then we had Friday’s fantastic win on our Rocky Hill case in the Land and Environment Court – a wonderful result for the community of Gloucester, a testament to our Barrister, Robert White, expert witnesses Emeritus Professor Dr Will Steffen, energy analyst Tim Buckley, acoustics expert Stephen Gauld and anthropologist Dr Hedda Askland, and a hugely important judgment in Australian climate litigation. THANK YOU to everyone who supported us while we built and argued our case – we could not have done it without you!
Chief Justice Brian Preston SC handed down his judgment in our landmark case, refusing approval of a new coal mine to be built just outside of the small town of Gloucester. This is the first time an Australian court has refused consent for a coal mine on the basis of its climate change impacts. The judgment poses a foundational question for all future fossil fuel projects: “the wrong time” test.
The Court accepted our scientific evidence and the concept of a global carbon budget. In the face of that acceptance, the judgment presents a foundational question for all decision makers on fossil fuel projects: given that, if we are to remain within the global carbon budget, only a finite amount of additional carbon can be burned, and that existing approvals already exhaust that budget, why should this particular project be prioritised over any other, or displace an existing approval? That is ‘the wrong time’ test, and I believe it will prove an insurmountable barrier for many projects going forward.
As you know, we argued on behalf of Groundswell Gloucester that the proposed mine was contrary to the public interest and principles of ecologically sustainable development because of its significant social and climate change impacts. The Court accepted those arguments in deciding to refuse approval for the mine, finding that carbon emissions from the mine will contribute to global warming, and approving it will not assist in achieving the rapid and deep reductions in emissions needed in order to meet Australia’s Paris targets.
Significantly, the Court held that it was not important that emissions from the mine would be a fraction of global total emissions, noting that the global problem of climate change needs to be addressed by multiple local actions to mitigate emissions. The Court also found that the mine’s economic benefits had been substantially overstated.
Importantly, the Court found that the Rocky Hill coal project will cause a variety of serious negative social impacts to the Gloucester community, including visual, noise and dust impacts, and significant impacts to Aboriginal Cultural Heritage, stating that the mine will severely impact on people’s sense of place – especially damaging to local Aboriginal people and their connection to Country.
In summing up his judgment, Chief Justice Preston SC said: “In short, an open cut coal mine in this part of the Gloucester valley would be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Wrong place because an open cut coal mine in this scenic and cultural landscape, proximate to many people’s homes and farms, will cause significant planning, amenity, visual and social impacts. Wrong time because the greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) of the coal mine and its product will 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. These dire consequences should be avoided. The Project should be refused.”
This landmark case is a seminal moment in the development of climate litigation in Australia and well and truly puts us on the map in terms of international climate change litigation. EDO’s public interest environmental lawyers are at the forefront of using the law to protect our climate and nature for current and future generations.
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From sharp stones to smart phones
we are victims of our technologies
– but the planet a million times more so.