The federal court of Australia has found the environment minister, Sussan Ley, has a duty of care to protect young people from the climate crisis in a judgment hailed by lawyers and teenagers who brought the case as a world first.
Eight teenagers and an octogenarian nun had sought an injunction to prevent Ley approving a proposal by Whitehaven Coal to expand the Vickery coalmine in northern New South Wales, arguing the minister had a common law duty of care to protect younger people against future harm from climate change.
Justice Mordecai Bromberg found the minister had a duty of care to not act in a way that would cause future harm to younger people. But he did not grant the injunction as he was not satisfied the minister would breach her duty of care.
David Barnden, a lawyer representing the children, said it was a historic and “amazing decision” with potentially significant consequences.
“The court has found that the minister owes a duty of care to younger children, to vulnerable people, and that duty says that the minister must not act in a way that causes harm – future harm – from climate change to younger people,” he said outside court. “It is the first time in the world that such a duty of care has been recognised, especially in a common law country.”