Help us respond to the threat of climate change
Climate change is one of the most formidable challenges of our time.
The science is clear. The danger is very real. The stakes are high. We must act.
The Climate Institute, 2017
If this mine expansion goes ahead it will exacerbate climate change impacts in NSW and be the death knell for our community. We don’t believe the approval has been lawfully given, so we are asking the Court to overturn the approval.
Bev Smiles, Wollar Progress Association
Climate change is one of the biggest challenges we face today. The 2015 Paris Agreement provided clear impetus for strong action on climate change; however current legal frameworks across Australia are failing to put in place the mechanisms necessary to meet our commitments.
Our regulations continue to advantage major fossil fuel projects. The community’s right to challenge these projects has been weakened and in some cases removed completely. Since 2013, we have seen unprecedented attacks on our civil society, people’s right to protest and organisations’ right to advocate on behalf of nature.
In the face of all this, it can be hard not to despair about the future, but I am confident that, using the law, we will continue to find solutions to the problems before us. Your donations to our Environmental Defence Fund help us to achieve these solutions.
We recently represented the Wollar Progress Association in the Land and Environment Court, challenging the NSW Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) decision to allow the extension of the Wilpinjong open-cut coal mine near Wollar, Mudgee. A substantial proportion of Wilpinjong coal would be burned at power stations within NSW.
This important case will test laws designed to assess the climate change impacts of mining, including 'downstream' emissions from the burning of coal sold to power stations.
If our case is successful, this mine extension will not be able to proceed without rigorous reassessment that properly considers NSW Government greenhouse gas emissions reduction commitments; with implications for the approval of every other NSW coal project.
With your support, we can continue to pursue ground-breaking cases like this one. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to our Environmental Defence Fund or joining our monthly giving group, Friends of the EDO, to help us defend our environment and advance the law.
Retro-fitting laws to suit polluters
In recent years, the NSW Government has changed environment laws following judgments which found that - if applied correctly - the law would have been effective in protecting the environment.
Last year, on behalf of 4nature, we successfully appealed the PAC’s approval of the Springvale coal mine extension, which threatened to undermine the Blue Mountains’ endangered and vulnerable hanging swamps and pollute Sydney’s drinking water catchment. A hearing set for October was to determine what orders should be made following our successful appeal.
The week before the hearing, the NSW Parliament passed a Bill overruling the Court of Appeal, retrospectively validating the PAC's approval of the mine and denying the public and the Court the opportunity to hear our expert evidence addressing the environmental impacts of the mine’s continued operation and the financial and economic implications of mine closure (including on energy).
This Government Bill weakened the laws regarding protection of Sydney’s drinking water, making lawful an operation that the Court had ruled unlawful because of its impact on the environment; both unacceptable and contrary to the constitutional separation of powers doctrine.
Policies regulating mining and drinking water have specific provisions to safeguard public health by protecting our environment. The public should have confidence that such provisions will not be weakened as a response to politically inconvenient circumstances. When they are, the public’s confidence in the rule of law is eroded.
Advancing the law
When environmental laws and regulation are not fit for purpose, our expert Policy & Law Reform team – supported by our Scientific Advisory service – works to find solutions, laying the groundwork for government to implement and enforce effective regulation, essential to addressing climate change.
In 2016, our Policy & Law Reform team published a report outlining ways to help mitigate the future impacts and costs of climate change. In 2017, our Policy & Law Reform Director Rachel Walmsley was instrumental in the creation of the Australian Panel of Experts on Environmental Law's blueprint for a new generation of environmental laws. In 2018, we will publish a follow up report on how adaptation can increase the community and environment’s resilience to unavoidable climate change.
Our Outreach team will continue to provide legal education to affected community groups and decision-makers across NSW, and ensure people are kept up to date on changes to law and policy through our popular fact sheets.
Pursuing cases like Wilpinjong, our Litigation team will hold key decision-makers to account, ensuring that climate change matters carefully consider the contribution that the burning of coal mined in NSW will make to Australia’s 2030 target of 24-26% reduction from 2005 levels, and NSW’s target of net zero emissions by 2050.
I have great faith in our multi-dimensional and multi-disciplinary approach to protecting the environment through law. But we need your help to keep up this great work. Despite our hard-won reputation as a respected and effective community legal centre, providing expert advice to communities and individuals in need, our State funding has been cut by 50% since 2012 (and Federal funding cut by 100%).
We are so grateful to everyone who believes in our work and those who have stepped in to help keep the EDO running. Your support will make all the difference to our ability to offer our essential services at a time when the world needs us most. Make your donation to our Environmental Defence Fund here.