Landmark climate litigation

Living Wonders cases back in court

12 February 2024

This week, on behalf of our courageous client, EJA lawyers are taking Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek back to court for refusing to act on the climate harm of new coal mines.

Across a two-day hearing, the volunteer-run Environment Council of Central Queensland will appeal last year’s Federal Court decision to dismiss the Living Wonders climate cases.

They will argue Australia’s Environment Minister is required by law to scrutinise the climate risk of new coal and gas plans.

By refusing to do so, they say she has failed to protect our environment from serious harm.

This is vital public interest litigation – and the outcome of these court cases could impact dozens of new fossil fuel projects awaiting approval on the Minister’s desk.

ECoCeQ’s cases have only made it this far thanks to the support of tens of thousands of people across Australia who wrote submissions, gave pro bono assistance, and contributed funds to help compile the evidence, get expert reports from the best climate and biodiversity experts and build a strong case with a team of barristers.

Taking two large court cases back to the full Federal Court on appeal is an enormous undertaking for this small volunteer environment council.

You can tune in to a livestream to watch the appeal over 12-13 February next week.

The Living Wonders climate cases were filed by ECoCeQ last year to challenge Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek’s risk assessment of two giant new coal mines – Mount Pleasant Optimisation coal mine expansion and the Narrabri Underground Mine Stage 3 Extension, both in NSW.

During the hearings in September 2023, they argued 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.

In October 2023, a single Federal Court judge dismissed the cases, and our client appealed to the full bench of the Federal Court.

By refusing to scrutinise the climate impacts of these two coal proposals, our client argues Australia’s Environment Minister decision was irrational, illogical and unlawful.

The cases come amid a global reassessment of the climate impacts of coal and gas, with the US Biden administration recently halting all new licenses for LNG export terminals so they can be properly scrutinised for their climate impact.

Read the full history of the Living Wonders climate cases here.

As always, we’ll keep you in the loop on important updates about the court cases.