Under our federal environment laws, our government has no duty to consider the health and wellbeing of young people when making decisions that could have serious consequences for the world they will inherit.
But thanks to the tireless work of young people fighting for their futures, we have a vital opportunity to change that.
A Bill has been tabled in the federal Parliament which would implement a new duty of care requiring government decision-makers to consider the impacts of climate change on the health and wellbeing of children and young people when making decisions that could make climate change worse.
Under Thursday, 23 November, a Senate Committee is taking public submissions on the Bill – and a strong show of support across generations would set the scene for this Bill to succeed.
The Duty of Care Bill builds on the incredible legal work undertaken by Anjali Sharma and other young people in the Sharma v Minister for Environment case. EJA is proud to support Anjali Sharma and other young people leading this campaign.
How to make an impactful submission
The Senate Committee is taking submissions from the community through an online consultation portal until Thursday, 23rd November.
You must make a submission through this portal for it to be counted.
If you don’t already have one, you’ll need to make a My Parliament account. This only takes a couple of minutes to do – click here to sign up.
To write your submission, you should draft in a Word document and upload the completed document to the portal. You can use this guide to help you write an impactful submission.
WHY THIS MATTERS
Climate justice is intergenerational justice.
Young people deserve a government that cares about their wellbeing – because they will inherit the consequences of decisions made today.
But as it stands, there is no clear obligation in Australia’s legislation for Ministers and other government decision-makers to take into account the potential impacts of the climate crisis on children’s wellbeing – either now or into the future.
If successful, the Climate Change Amendment (Duty of Care and Intergenerational Climate Equity) Bill 2023 would mean our Ministers and other government decision makers will have to take the health and wellbeing of young people into account when making future climate decisions – including whether to approve new coal and gas projects.
The best submissions are unique. The Senate Committee is much more likely to read and be influenced by a submission written with genuine care and a desire to protect the people and places we all love.
Tell the Parliament your story.
Begin your submission by introducing yourself.
- Who are you, and why is this issue important enough to you for you to spend time writing a submission to the Federal Parliament?
- Are you from an organisation whose work is relevant to the protection of the climate and environment for future generations?
- Are you a concerned parent who wishes to leave a safe and secure environment for your children?
- Are you a young person who feels anxiety at the prospect of a future with more frequent and severe climate disasters?
- Have you lived through climate disaster?
Once you have introduced yourself, move on to sharing why you think this Bill is important, and urging the Parliament to support the Bill.
Here are some important considerations you could include:
- Climate change will impact young generations worst – both in the present and the future. Rising global temperatures and extreme weather events threaten the stability of our futures, as we face a lifetime of increased climate disaster such as heat waves, wildfires, and floods. The consequences of climate change will compound existing challenges of food and housing insecurity, and disrupt education due to weather-related school closures.
- Our government has a responsibility to care for our communities and the planet. This means taking actions to avert the worst impacts of climate change – and stopping all new coal and gas proposals. Australia is the third largest exporter of fossil fuels, and is continuing to open new fossil fuel projects. By continuing to greenlight these, the government is opening the floodgates to the climate crisis. The choice to not just continue, but to increase the mining and exportation of fossil fuels is an irresponsible one that will contribute to incremental warming, causing increasing climate harm.
- The decisions our politicians make now will shape our collective future – and the future of all the generations who come after us. Our government can set a powerful global standard and demonstrate its commitment to climate action, hand in hand with young people, by adopting this Bill and upholding their duty as elected representatives to hand over a future to coming generations that is safe and liveable.
You may also like to include any reasons you believe the Bill is important related to your personal experience.
At the end, it can be a good idea to clearly articulate your ask that Parliament supports the Bill.
Once you have written your submission, save the Word document onto your computer. Return to the submission portal and log in to your My Parliament account.
Click ‘Upload submission’ and you will be taken to a page that lists all inquiries currently accepting submissions.
Make sure ‘Climate Change Amendment (Duty of Care and Intergenerational Climate Equity) Bill 2023’ is selected, and scroll to the bottom to click ‘Next’.
On the next page, you will see a message confirming you have selected this Bill. It should say: 1. Inquiry: The Climate Change Amendment (Duty of Care and Intergenerational Climate Equity) Bill 2023. If you wish to change the inquiry, click the “Change Inquiry” button below.
Also in this section you will be asked to select whether you are making a personal submission, or a submission on behalf of an organisation. Select the option that applies to you, and then fill out the necessary personal information. Click ‘Next’ to proceed.
After this, you will be asked to select which privacy option you’d prefer. Submissions to senate committee inquiries may be published online by the committee. You can request:
- For your name and submission to both be published on the inquiry webpage
- For your name to be kept private, but your submission published, or
- For both your name and submission to be kept confidential and not published on the webpage or quoted in the report
Once you have selected, click ‘Next’.
Finally, you will be asked to upload your submission document. The portal will accept standard Word Doc and PDF submissions, as well as TXT files.
Once your document has finished uploading, click ‘Submit’.
The Climate Change Amendment (Duty of Care and Intergenerational Equity) Bill 2023
Right now, there is no clear obligation in Australia’s legislation for Ministers and other government decision-makers to take into account the potential impacts of the climate crisis on children’s wellbeing – either now or into the future.
This proposed law would change that. In particular, it would do three key things.
The Bill would create a new duty for decision-makers to consider the health and wellbeing of current and future children in Australia when they are making decisions that could worsen the climate crisis – for example, decisions about whether or not to approve new coal mines, or to use public money to fund new fossil fuel infrastructure.
The Bill would prohibit decisions that would support more fossil fuel mining or exploration, or which would lead to levels of greenhouse gas emissions that would pose a real risk of harm to children’s health and wellbeing.
The Bill would promote intergenerational equity in government decision-making.
The aim of the proposed law is to make sure that when the Australian government makes decisions which could worsen the climate crisis, it is required to consider the impacts of worsening climate change on future generations of Australians.
In particular, the ‘object’, or purpose, of the Bill is to ensure that these decisions are fair, considering that even though in some circumstances there might be some benefits for the present-day Australian community, there would also be significant negative impacts for future generations of people living in Australia.
This concept is called ‘intergenerational equity’, and it is about ensuring that temporary, short-term benefits – like the royalties from a new coal mine approval – are properly balanced against the very serious and potentially permanent longer-term impacts of the fossil fuel-driven climate crisis.
If the new Bill is made into law, when Ministers and other government decision-makers are making certain decisions, they would need to consider the physical, emotional, cultural and spiritual health of present-day and future generations of children in Australia, and the impacts of the climate crisis on these children and young people.
In some cases, government decision-makers covered by this new duty would also be prohibited from making decisions that are likely to result in levels of greenhouse gas emissions posing a real risk of harm to children’s health and wellbeing, or which would support more fossil fuel mining or exploration.
This would be the first time a law in Australia explicitly prevents the government from making the kind of decisions that are currently fuelling the climate crisis.
The duty would apply to specific decisions made under certain laws relevant to Australia’s role in the climate crisis. The threshold for the duty to apply is whether the outcome of the decision is likely to lead to over 100,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.
It doesn’t matter whether the emissions would be created in Australia or overseas, as long as they are likely to result from the decision. This is because each additional tonne of greenhouse gas pollution makes the climate crisis worse, no matter where it is created.
Decisions that could be covered by the new duty include:
- The decision to approve a ‘proposed action’ under Australia’s national environment law (known as the ‘EPBC Act’), including new coal or gas developments – for example, new coal mines and coal mine extensions proposed in Central Queensland and NSW.
- The decision to approve offshore oil, gas or carbon capture and storage projects under the law covering offshore developments – for example, the Scarborough gas field off WA.
- Decisions under legislation about public funding and loans for infrastructure projects – for example, funding to fossil fuel companies for gas industry infrastructure in the NT.
As well as considering the potential impacts on the health and wellbeing of children, the decision-maker must consider whether the emissions resulting from their decision would make it harder for Australia to achieve its emissions reduction targets.