Living Wonders
climate cases

Landmark climate litigation to protect our living wonders from coal and gas

In 2023, a small volunteer environment group, the Environment Council of Central Queensland (ECoCeQ), took our federal Environment Minister and two big coal companies to Court to protect our living wonders from climate harm.

In October 2023, the Federal Court dismissed the Living Wonders climate cases.

EJA have lawyers have since filed two appeals to the full bench of the Federal Court to prevent the Minister from approving new coal and gas plans without first assessing their climate impact.

The science is clear

Represented by Environmental Justice Australia, ECoCeQ argues the science is clear: new coal mine expansions like Whitehaven’s Narrabri and MACH’s Mount Pleasant pose a serious and irreversible threat to our climate and to thousands of threatened animals, plants and places across Australia.

They argue the Minister acted unlawfully when she refused to accept the climate harm these projects are likely to cause, as outlined in thousands of scientific reports, including from the IPCC and her own department.

If successful, ECoCeQ hopes these cases will transform how Australia’s Environment Ministers now and into the future assess climate risk – so the climate harm of every new coal or gas mine can never be ignored again.

The impact

A kaleidoscope of living wonders

This continent is rich with animals, plants, places and ecosystems so extraordinary, they must be protected from harm.

Find out why

Dozens of coal and gas plans

Burning fossil fuels is the biggest cause of climate breakdown. New coal mines and gas wells will cause vast and irreversible harm to our environment and all of us.

About the goal and gas projects >

The evidence is stark

The science is clear, but the future is not yet written. Here's how these court cases seek to reshape environmental decision making in Australia.

Explore the evidence >

This is about all of us

Koalas and platypuses. Green turtles, dugongs and Tassie devils. Bilbies and bats and big old trees.

It’s about birds that traverse the planet to nest in our internationally recognised wetlands, and whales that nurse their calves in our seas.

It’s about delicate alpine ecosystems, thunderous waterfalls, miraculous deserts and ochre-toned escarpments.

It’s about the living cultural heritage of First Nations people. It’s about Kakadu. The Tarkine. The Reef.

And it’s about all the extraordinary animals, reptiles, birds, plants, heritage and places we want our children and their children to know and love.

What's happened so far?

July 2022

In July 2022, we submitted 19 reconsideration requests under our national environment laws, on behalf of our client. We argued the Minister had a legal obligation to reconsider significant new evidence about the climate harm of almost all new coal and gas proposals awaiting federal approval.

November 2022

The Minister accepted our client’s reconsideration requests as valid, and tens of thousands of people across Australia wrote public comments about their concerns.

June 2023

The Environment Minister refused to change her assessment of three planned coal mine expansions.

July 2023

Our client, the Environment Council of Central Queensland, filed two court cases in the Federal Court, challenging the Minister’s refusal to act on the climate harm of two large coal mines in NSW. Two coal companies, Whitehaven Subsidiary Narrabri Coal and MACH Energy, joined the litigation.

September 2023

Justice McElwaine heard our client’s Federal Court challenge of the Federal Environment Minister’s risk assessment decisions for the proposed Mount Pleasant and Narrabri Underground coal mine extensions.

October 2023

The Federal Court dismissed the Living Wonders climate cases. Our client is currently considering all legal avenues, including full Federal Court appeals and urgent injunctions.

Explore the evidence behind these game-changing court cases