Open Letter to the Minister for the Environment

The Climate Council is supporting a legal intervention by the Environment Council of Central Queensland and their lawyers, Environmental Justice Australia, which calls for the Environment Minister to consider climate impacts when assessing coal and gas projects, under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act.

Because the longer we keep digging up and burning fossil fuels like coal and gas, the more our environment will suffer. Read the letter below, signed by over 60 of Australia’s preeminent scientists, then share it to amplify their call.

To: The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP

Australian Minister for Environment and Water

Dear Minister Plibersek,

Australian scientists call on our Federal Environment Minister to confront and respond to our shared climate reality by heeding the irrefutable scientific evidence and warnings when assessing coal and gas projects. 

As scientists, we not only study but have a deep connection with and affection for Australia’s living wonders. Our research is founded on expert analysis, data and rigorous examination of the facts. We ask that leader’s decisions are likewise embedded in science. 

In support of the Environment Council of Central Queensland’s legal intervention to protect Australia’s living wonders from climate damage, we are calling on the Australian Government to heed the scientific evidence on climate change when considering how proposals for new coal and gas projects will harm thousands of matters of national environmental significance (MNES) protected under Part 3 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth).

According to the UN IPCC, the science is unequivocal. From megafires to ocean heatwaves and acidification, extensive coral bleaching, drought, and extreme rainfall and flooding events, we are now seeing and suffering through the scientifically predicted impacts of climate change across the country. These changes are compounding existing threats and creating new threats to matters of national environmental significance.

Every tonne of greenhouse gas emissions and fraction of a degree of warming is a blow to the health of our ecosystems and economy. Any new coal or gas project will dangerously worsen climate change, which is already having major impacts for many natural systems, with some experiencing, or at risk of, irreversible change. 

The science is clear, extracting fossil fuels is detrimental to Indigenous health and wellbeing. Fossil fuel exploitation increases local risks such as air, water, and land pollution. Scarring of the land and loss of access to Country is a direct threat to spiritual and cultural wellbeing, challenging the sustainability of cultures and communities living on their traditional lands. Indigenous presence on Country is essential for conducting Indigenous science based land management practice that reverse the impacts of climate change. 

At risk are lives, livelihoods and the ecosystems that we depend on. Some of our most precious icons may be lost: the Great Barrier Reef, Kakadu, the Tarkine and Otways, giant kelp forests and the living cultural heritage of First Nations people. 

Iconic and extraordinary species including koalas, green turtles, bilbies, dugongs, platypuses, Tasmanian devils and the Wollemi pine, are all under threat and we’ve documented the extinction of others. The species, ecosystems, and cultural heritage protected under the EPBC Act are all damaged when projects that accelerate climate change are approved.  

We, as pre-eminent scientists named below, are jointly calling on the Environment Minister to accept our shared climate reality, heed the science and ensure all environmental assessments of new gas and coal projects are responsible and evidence-based, and include scope 3 emissions from all projects.

The fate of Australia’s living wonders – and all of the unique animals, plants, ecosystems and places we love – depends on it.

Yours sincerely,

Professor Tim Flannery
Chief Councillor, Climate Council of Australia

Bill Hare
Adjunct Professor, Murdoch University

Professor Euan Ritchie
Centre for Integrative Ecology, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Deakin University

Professor Anne Poelina 
Nulungu Institute Research, University of Notre Dame, WA

Professor Gretta Pecl
Professor of Climate Change Ecology, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, and Director, Centre for Marine Socioecology at the University of Tasmania 

Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg
ARC Centre for Excellence in Coral Reef Studies, University of Queensland

Professor Sharon Robinson
Professor of Climate Change Biology and Executive Director Global Challenges Program, University of Wollongong

Professor Jodie Rummer
Professor of Marine Biology in the College of Science and Engineering and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University

Perran Cook
Professor of Biogeochemistry, Monash University

Professor Brendan Wintle
Professor of Conservation Science, School of Ecosystem and Forest Science, University of Melbourne

Ricky Spencer
Associate Professor of Ecology, Western Sydney University

Professor Hamish McCallum
Director, Centre for Planetary Health and Food Security, Griffith University

Dr James Smith
Fisheries Scientist, University of NSW

Dr Jennifer Sanger
Ecologist and Science Communicator, The Tree Projects

Prof John Wiseman
Senior Research Fellow, Melbourne Climate Futures, The University of Melbourne

Sharee McCammon
Molecular Biologist, Central Science Laboratory, University of Tasmania

Janice Baird
Principal, Earth & Every

Neil Plummer
Director and Climatologist, Out of the Box Executive and Consultant to the Monash Climate Change Communication Research Hub

Professor Hilary Bambrick
Director National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, The Australian National University, Canberra ACT

Corey Bradshaw
Matthew Flinders Professor of Global Ecology, Flinders University

Adam Smart
PhD Candidate, School of Ecosystem and Forest Science, University of Melbourne

Asta Audzijonyte
Research fellow, University of Tasmania

Kevin Taylor
Fire Ecologist, Nature Conservation Council of NSW

Alieta Eyles
Research Scientist, University of Tasmania

Christian Dietz
Senior Scientist, University of Tasmania

Graeme McCormack
Senior Technical Officer, University of Tasmania

Richard Wilson
Senior Research Fellow and Proteomics core facility manager, University of Tasmania

John P. Bowman
University Academic (Professor of Microbiology), University of Tasmania

Dr Julie Harris
Adjunct Lecturer, University of Tasmania

Willem Huiskamp
Postdoctoral Researcher, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research

Professor Jason Sharples
Professor of Bushfire Dynamics, University of New South Wales

Caroline Claye
Laboratory Manager, Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture

Olivia Woosnam
Principal Conservation Ecologist, OWAD Environment

Lynn Baker
Ecologist, Canines for Wildlife

Associate Professor Sandra Wooltorton
Senior Research Fellow, The University of Notre Dame Australia

Dr Peter Gill
CEO, Blue Whale Study Inc

Jennifer Smith
PhD Candidate, Institute for Marine & Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania

Ella Clausius
Marine Scientist, Institute for Marine & Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania

Dr Carly Starr
Manager, Natural Environment, Queensland Trust For Nature

Shun Deng Fam
Sessional Academic, Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University

Aidan Dudgeon
Technical officer, Institute for Marine & Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania

Mellissa Brown
Principal Ecologist, 4 Elements Consulting

Dr Rebecca Diete
Wildlife Ecologist, Australian Wildlife Conservancy

Dr Hugh Finn
University lecturer, Curtin University

Benjamin Viola
PhD Candidate, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania

David Paull
Ecologist, Department of Environment and Heritage NSW

Fiona Hoegh-Guldberg
PhD student studying biodiversity, RMIT University

Anthony Burke
Professor of Environmental Politics, UNSW

Michael Oellermann
Adjunct Research Fellow, University of Tasmania

Emily Rush
PhD candidate, James Cook University

Gavin Smith
Associate Professor, ANU

Dr Zoe Richards
Senior Research Scientist, Curtin University


Minister Plibersek could decide today reform the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity (EPBC) Act and consider climate impacts when assessing new coal and gas projects. Share this letter to amplify the call from more than 60 Australian scientists, pushing for urgent action to protect lives, livelihoods and the ecosystems that we depend on.