Press Release - July 11, 2022

Landmark legal intervention calls on Environment Minister to put climate change on agenda for pending coal, gas proposals

July 11, 2022

Climate change threatens more than 2100 Matters of National Environmental Significance;
Including 17 World Heritage Properties such as Kakadu National Park and the Great Barrier Reef, National Heritage places including the Australian Alps, more than 360 threatened animals including koalas and turtles and 1000 threatened plants.

Until now, former environment ministers failed to take climate change into account when considering which animals, plants and place could be harmed by a coal or gas proposal.
An environment council lodged requests for Minister Tanya Plibersek to reconsider 19 pending coal and gas proposals to account for climate harm.
A regional environment council has launched a legal intervention seeking the potentially catastrophic effects of climate change to be examined for nearly every coal and gas project pending federal approval.

The Environment Council of Central Queensland (ECoCeQ), represented by Environmental Justice Australia (EJA), submitted requests to Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek to consider the climate impact from 19 coal and gas proposals on thousands of Matters of National Environmental Significance.

Among the projects are Whitehaven’s Narrabri coal mine extension and Woodside’s North West Shelf Project Extension.

Standing alongside ECoCeQ, four Friends of the Living Wonders, each with firsthand stories of climate impacts, have written to Minister Plibersek urging for the proposals to be reconsidered: Bailai elder Mabel Quakawoot, Ngarigu academic and advocate for protecting Country Jakelin Troy, marine biologist Jodie Rummer and youth climate activist Emma Heyink.

Minister Plibersek has been handed more than 3000 documents, spreadsheets and detailed fire maps from scientific sources and the government’s own documents charting the impact of climate change driven by greenhouse gas emissions on 2121 species, places and ecological communities.

Those quoted and Friends of the Living Wonders are available for comment:

Professor Jodie Rummer is a marine biologist at James Cook University and Research Associate at the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, studying the effects of climate change on fish, sharks and rays on the Great Barrier Reef.

Professor Jakelin Troy is a Ngarigu woman from the NSW Snowy Mountains. The Director of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Research at the University of Sydney is a passionate advocate for protecting Country from climate impacts.

Mabel Quakawoot is a Bailai elder from the Gladstone region in Queensland. She wants to ensure the Great Barrier Reef, dugongs and turtles surrounding her home are protected for future generations.

Emma Heyink is a 15-year-old student School Strike For Climate organiser from Margaret River, WA. She loves the natural environment in her region, but has watched the devastating effects of climate change on her community and the environment, and is speaking out to demand climate action.

ECoCeQ President Christine Carlisle said:

“Until now, former environment ministers failed to account for the detrimental effect climate change will have on thousands of Matters of National Environmental Significance across the country, when determining the impacts fossil fuel proposals could have on the environment.

“This is about all of it. Koalas, turtles, the reef, Kakadu. Cultural heritage sites of deep significance for First Nations people. All the natural wonders we want our children and their children to know and love.”

EJA Principal Lawyer Hollie Kerwin said:

“Under a rarely used provision of the EPBC Act, our client has requested Minister Plibersek reconsider assessment of pending coal and gas proposals and expansions currently on her desk.

“Our client has compiled a vault of the most up-to-date evidence showing the global scientific consensus on the effects of climate change for so many of the places, plants and species the Minister is tasked with legal responsibility for.”

“The requests by our client aim to make sure the application of environmental law in Australia accounts for the reality of climate change.”

Contact: (03) 8341 3110, [email protected]