Australia’s government has been ordered to consider risks carbon dioxide emissions pose to young people when approving new coal mines or expansions to existing ones, the federal court said on Thursday.
The case, brought by eight students and an octogenarian nun, centred on Whitehaven Coal’s planned expansion of an operation in New South Wales. The project aims at producing as much as 10 million tonnes a year of mostly metallurgical coal, used in steel-making.
While judge Mordy Bromberg had dismissed the original claim seeking to stop expansion of coal mine operations, Thursday’s judgement could set a precedent for all fossil fuel projects in Australia, the world’s second-largest coal exporter by volume.
Climate advocates hailed the decision, adding there should be “no moral, legal or rational way” environment minister Sussan Ley could now approve Whitehaven’s expansion of its Vickery coal mine.
They noted Bromberg’s verdict will have implications beyond coal as it specifies a duty of care in relation to “emissions of carbon dioxide into the Earth’s atmosphere”.
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