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Environment, Political

Fixing Australia’s environment law now the only way to end new coal and gas approvals

Climate Council 2 mins read

DATE 11 October, 2023

TODAY’S FEDERAL COURT ruling that massive new coal mines can go ahead under Australia’s national environment law cements the case for its urgent overhaul.

There have already been 740 coal, oil and gas projects given the greenlight under the law. Today’s decision confirms there will be more unless the Albanese Government acts to fix it.

Climate Council CEO Amanda McKenzie said: “Climate change is an enormous bulldozer tearing through the natural ecosystems that people and animals depend on for health, wellbeing and safety.

“Yet, our national environmental law offers little protection against the greenhouse gas emissions that are fuelling dangerous climate change.

“The Great Barrier Reef is under threat. Rainforests are being decimated by catastrophic bushfires. Communities are withering under extreme heat waves. Despite this, today’s ruling makes clear that nothing currently stands in the way of massive new coal mines that will cause even more climate and environmental damage.”

The Living Wonders court case, brought by the Environment Council of Central Queensland, sought to make Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek consider the climate impacts of two major coal mines before giving them the green light – the Narrabri expansion and Mount Pleasant Optimisation Project.

But the Federal Court today ruled that Minister Pilbersek isn't required under Australia’s national environment law to consider climate threats when assessing projects, shining a spotlight on the gaping hole at the heart of this law.

Climate Council Head of Advocacy Dr Jennifer Rayner said: "Today the Federal Court has closed one chapter in the sorry history of Australia’s national environment law. The next chapter is the Albanese Government’s to write.

“The Government says it is simply following the law in giving fossil fuel projects the green light. That excuse doesn’t fly when it has the power to change it.

“The Government can fix Australia’s national environment law by putting climate at its heart. The law should directly protect a safe and liveable climate for communities and nature.

“It should directly consider the impact on our environment of all emissions from high polluting projects in project assessments. The law needs to be set up so it can knock back projects where this harmful pollution is simply too high.

“Today’s ruling leaves our environment dangerously exposed to escalating climate damage. The Albanese Government should act to fix this gaping hole in our national environment law.”


Read Climate Council’s recommendations for a national environment law that delivers for climate, nature and communities. 

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The Climate Council is Australia’s leading community-funded climate change communications organisation. We provide authoritative, expert and evidence-based advice on climate change to journalists, policymakers, and the wider Australian community.


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