Media release

EPBC Act Review: Governments can expect more litigation 

July 03, 2020

Governmental failures will be scrutinised with the imminent release of the interim report of the ten-year independent review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.  

Environmental Justice Australia co-CEO Nicola Rivers, who made a submission to the review, will undertake an analysis on its release, expected in the next few days. She is available for interview.   

The review’s limitations and priorities signify Australia’s urgent need for comprehensive legal measures to stabilise our climate, safeguard and regenerate our environment and preserve indigenous heritage.  

Nicola Rivers, co-CEO of Environmental Justice Australia, said: 

”The federal government has failed to properlyadminister the existing EPBC Act. The 10 year review releasereinforces the need to ensure rigour, transparency and accountability.  

“A key failure of the existing Act in protecting Australia’s environment is the high level of discretion afforded to decision-makers and policy-makers.  

“Last week’s Federal Auditor-General’s report documented many ways decision-makers have failed to use these discretions to protect Australia’s environment. The report demonstrates the scandalous neglect, inefficiencies and inadequate processes in administering the Act.  

“There is an urgency for Australia’s premier federal environment law to set climate change as a national priority. Since the existing Act came into force, Australia’s environment and climate have worsened dramatically. We have suffered bushfires, species decline and coral bleaching. We have also suffered catastrophic destruction of forests and indigenous heritage.  

“EJA’s submission to the review demonstrated why the revised Act must include climate change adaptation and mitigation, Indigenous rights and knowledge, and ecological stewardship as the primary focus and goal in the way our environmental laws are formulated and implemented.    

“To ensure rigour, transparency and accountability of decision-making and more robust administration of Commonwealth environmental laws, an independent National Environment Commission and an independent national Environment Protection Authority must be established and tasked with performing key functions under the Act.”  

Citizen-led litigation against governments 

Around the world, government failures in climate and environmental stewardship have ushered in a rise in climate litigation and class action, said Ms Rivers.  

“There has been a rise in community advocating to governments to make environmental laws that effectively protect the environment and community health. 

“We support many communities around Australia to do that. In the absence of strong regulatory measures communities often have no choice but to advocate and litigate to safeguard their air, waterways and environment.”  

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