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A year ago, we were preparing to go to Court, representing community groups as they defended their land, water, farms, heritage, towns and wild places against coal mining projects that would have serious social, cultural and environmental impacts - and also contribute to dangerous climate change. One year on, sustained by people like you, we’ve won some major battles. The ground-breaking judgment in the Rocky Hill case set a new standard in Australian environmental and planning law and put us on the map in terms of international climate litigation.
But the war is far from over. As last year’s UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report, and this month’s Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) Report on global species extinction illustrate in terrible detail, we need to do much more to avoid the destruction of our shared home.
There is much more we need to do, and little time to do it.
“The health of the ecosystems on which we and other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide,” Robert Watson, chair of IPBES. “We have lost time. We must act now.”
With the support of our donors, our Law Reform team developed a roadmap - Climate Ready Planning Laws – to fill the gap between our international commitments on climate change and our current planning laws. We are sharing it with lawmakers across the country and the political spectrum, as they consider the new approaches so desperately needed to save our oceans, rivers, forests, unique animals and plants… and our climate.
Meanwhile, this January, residents of the NSW Central Coast were horrified to learn that, despite being knocked back twice over the past 22 years due to the risk of serious and irreversible damage to the drinking water catchment, a new underground coal mine had been approved, right in their backyard.
On 8 February, Chief Judge Brian Preston of the Land and Environment Court created Australian legal history, finding that the Rocky Hill coal mine was in the wrong place at the wrong time because "the (greenhouse gas) emissions of the coal mine and its coal product will increase global total concentrations of (greenhouse gases) at a time when what is now urgently needed, in order to meet generally agreed climate targets, is a rapid and deep decrease in emissions".
On the 8 May, mining company Gloucester Resources Limited finally announced it would not file an appeal against the decision. This means that Chief Judge Preston’s ground-breaking judgment stands.
We are proud of what we have been able to achieve for our clients, with the help of our network of expert scientists, dedicated pro bono Counsel, and people like you.
Across NSW, Australia and the South Pacific, communities face threats to their homes and livelihoods, their cultural and architectural heritage, social and emotional wellbeing, landscapes and wildlife. By supporting EDO, you give them access to justice and a chance to stand up to powerful forces threatening everything they – and we – hold dear.
We need to raise $100,000 by June 30 in order to provide the core support our expert litigation, education and law reform teams need to underpin this work. Your generosity today will help empower people and communities under threat.
Watching the recent biopic about the indomitable American judge and gender equality advocate, Ruth Bader-Ginsburg, I was struck by the repeated line: "A court ought not be affected by the weather of the day, but will be by the climate of the era".
It seems clear to me that Australian law should recognise the primacy of protecting our life support systems and safeguarding the health of future generations. The Environmental Defenders Office is dedicated to realising this goal.
As I write, there are three major mine projects in NSW – Bylong, Vickery and United Wambo – awaiting decisions from the Independent Planning Commission (formerly PAC). Our tireless legal team is providing advice and support to these mining-affected communities, all desperately waiting for the fate of their homes and farmland to be decided.
These three projects have a far bigger carbon footprint than Rocky Hill. We know that environmental and planning law that requires serious consideration of climate change impacts will reduce greenhouse gas emissions. I hope that the science will prevail and Chief Judge Preston’s ‘wrong time’ test will be applied.
Now’s the time to act – the Rocky Hill judgment shows that the law can work to protect us, as long as it’s applied in a way that gives the necessary weight to the health of humans, animals, plants and our shared home.
The impact of climate change is a hugely traumatic thing to confront, but together we are not helpless. We have the legal solutions and we need your help to keep fighting. Please make a tax-deductible donation to our Environmental Defence Fund today.
Thank you for standing with us to protect the environment and advance the law,
David Morris CEO - Solicitor
A message from Julie Lyford, chair of Groundswell Gloucester:
The community of Gloucester and most importantly the affected residents are absolutely delighted that they can now get on with their lives. The uncertainty and anxious waiting is over.
The decade-long fight to protect our homes, families and the beautiful Gloucester valley has been arduous and distressing. The community can now move forward with progressive and sustainable industry.
Indeed, since the news in early 2016 regarding AGL not proceeding with their 330-well gas field, then the refusal of the Rocky Hill coal mine, house prices have risen and housing stock as well as new builds are in hot demand. Tourism this Easter weekend was very strong. Service industries and light industrial business continue to grow. Gloucester has always been a desirable destination to visit, live and grow the economy.
With climate change threatening the planet, we owe it to this and future generations to step away from fossil fuel, embrace renewables and work towards just transitions.
EDO NSW has been the backbone of all environmental community campaigns.