Game-Changing Legal Decision on Coal

08.02.19 By

First it was tobacco, then it was asbestos and now it’s coal.

An Australian court has today accepted the science and put the community’s well-being first, by rejecting a proposed open cut coal mine in the Hunter Valley because of the greenhouse gas pollution it would produce.

“The NSW Land and Environment court has effectively ruled that coal – just like tobacco and asbestos – is bad for us. I’m thrilled to see the law catching up with the science,” said the Climate Council’s CEO, Amanda McKenzie.

In his landmark verdict, Chief Judge Brian Preston SC said the proposed Rocky Hill Mine, just outside of Gloucester would “be in the wrong place at the wrong time,” both for its social impacts and because of the greenhouse gas pollution it would produce.

He ruled that a new coal mine would increase greenhouse gas pollution when what is needed to meet the Paris climate agreement commitments “is a rapid and deep decrease in greenhouse gas emissions.”

The court heard expert testimony from Climate Councillor, Professor Will Steffen who emphasised that coal reserves cannot be developed if we are to to limit global temperature rise. “You cannot reduce emissions by increasing them,” Professor Steffen told the court.  “It doesn’t take Einstein to work that out.”

“This landmark decision sends a clear message to the fossil fuel industry that it cannot continue to expand if we are serious about tackling climate change,” said Professor Steffen.

“Shutting the door on new fossil fuel developments will be a major turning point in the battle to stabilise the climate system – and will add further momentum to the shift to clean, reliable, renewable energy systems,” he said.

Developing any new coal mines is fundamentally at odds with protecting Australians from the impacts of climate change,” said Climate Councillor and former president of BP Australasia, Greg Bourne.

“Today’s decision is a ‘game-changer’ in Australian legal history and is a significant step towards tackling climate change,” he said.

“If I was proposing to build a coal mine right now, I’d be feeling pretty nervous,” said Ms McKenzie.

“We must continue to transition away from fossil fuels and embrace renewable energy with storage. The science says so, and now the law does too,” said Ms McKenzie.


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