Open Letter to the Minister for Environment

11.07.22 By
This article is more than one year old

The Climate Council is inviting members of the Australian scientific community to sign the below open letter in support of the Environment Council of Central Queensland’s legal intervention.

The challenge focuses on how the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC) – Australia’s main environmental law – considers the impact of fossil fuel projects. To date, when considering new coal and gas projects, federal environment ministers do not consider the impacts of emissions and climate change on ‘matters of national environmental significance.’ All coal and gas projects harm our world heritage areas, precious species and vital natural resources. 

It is no longer tenable for the Minister to simply ignore the damage these projects do.

The case could halt the progress of a number of existing coal and gas projects and possibly put a stop to future ones. 


The open letter was delivered to Federal Environment Minister, The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP, on the 30th August, 2022. Special thanks to all who signed. We look forward to receiving her reply.

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

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

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

Dorothy Steane – Honorary Senior Lecturer in Adaptation Genetics and Rhodes Scholar, UTAS

Dr Megan Evans – Senior Lecturer and ARC DECRA Fellow, University of New South Wales, Canberra

A/Prof Robyn Schofield – A/Dean Environment and Sustainability, University of Melbourne

Peter Steinberg – Emeritus Professor of Biology, UNSW

Emeritus Professor Alan Bensoussan – Engagement & Partnerships, NICM Health Research Institute, Western Sydney University

Kathryn Bowen – Professor of Environment, climate change and health, University of Melbourne

Adrienne Milward – Honorary Professor, Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute

Robert Day – Biomedical Engineer, East Metropolitan Health Service

Nicola Fraser – Marine Scientist, Southern Cross University

Nigel Howard FRSC – Retired Environmental Scientist/Consultant, Clarity Environment

A/Prof Sue Baker – ARC Future Fellow in forest conservation science, UTAS

Beth Addison-Smith – Research Officer, QUT

Mervyn Mason – Ecologist, Dogwood Ecology

Asia Haines – Marine Scientist, University of Queensland

Yung En Chee – Ecology, The University of Melbourne

Russell Drysdale – Professor of Physical Geography (Palaeoclimatology), University of Melbourne

Celia McMichael – Climate change and migration, The University of Melbourne

Candice Boyd – School of Geography, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, The University of Melbourne

Jon Woodhead – Palaeoclimate, The University of Melbourne

Colette Mortreux – Climate Change Adaptation, University of Melbourne

Robyn Schofield – Atmospheric Chemist, University of Melbourne

Josephine Brown – Senior Lecturer in Climate Science, School of Geography, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Melbourne

Mary Voice – Seasonal climate services, University of Melbourne

Mylene Mariette – Behavioural Ecology and Evolution, Deakin University

Sacha Shaw – Social impacts of Climate Change, University of Sydney

Dr Rachel Hughes – Senior Lecturer In Human Geography, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, The University of Melbourne

Benjamin Henley – Climate Scientist and Hydrologist, University of Wollongong

Brenda Dobia – Adjunct Fellow Social Ecology and Education, Western Sydney University

Brendan Duffy – Engineering Geologist, The University of Melbourne and GHD

Dr Lisa-ann Gershwin – Jellyfish impacts in changing oceans, Chief Scientist at Australian Marine Stinger Advisory Services

Tony Eales – Anthropologist, QSNTS