Skip to content
Environment

Expert legal review finds Australia’s environment law fails to protect safe and liveable climate

Climate Council 3 mins read

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

WEDNESDAY, 1 NOVEMBER 2023

 

BIG POLLUTING FOSSIL fuel projects are escaping scrutiny because Australia’s national environment law has a massive gap when it comes to climate change harms, according to a legal review released today.

 

Distinguished environmental and climate law professor Jacqueline Peel prepared the review.

 

More than 35 of Australia’s leading environmental law experts have today backed Professor Peel's findings in an open letter to the Environment Minister, Tanya Plibersek, which calls on the Federal Government to fix our national environment law by putting climate at its heart.

 

“Our national environmental law does not currently require the Federal Environment Minister to protect a safe and liveable climate, or even to consider the impact of more greenhouse gas pollution on the threatened species, habitats and wildlife this law was set up to protect,” Professor Peel said.

 

“There is no other federal law which assesses and approves new coal, oil and onshore gas projects to proceed. This means the damage they could do to the climate and environment isn't being properly looked at anywhere, showing a major gap in our legal framework for tackling climate change.”

 

Key issues called out by Professor Peel’s review include:

 

  • The law does not explicitly deal with climate change, and there is no current requirement for considering the climate impacts of proposed projects. Previous attempts to add climate to the act have been rebuffed; this is allowing projects with high greenhouse gas emissions to proceed without a thorough assessment of their impacts. The recent Living Wonders decision in the Federal Court confirms that even an indirect interpretation of the law’s protections does not bring climate impacts into its scope.
  • Proposed reforms by the federal government would only cover direct emissions from facilities, and ignore the bigger picture of emissions from their products (known as Scope 3 emissions), which can make up the far larger share of emissions from coal, oil and gas projects. Other countries like the US are increasingly considering these emissions when it comes to assessing potential environmental harm.
  • From next year, major companies will need to disclose all of their emissions to financial markets through the federal government’s upcoming climate financial disclosure laws. However, these same emissions wouldn’t need to be reported about specific projects being assessed under the national environment law. This could create a scenario where companies need to tell shareholders more about their emissions than they do environmental protection authorities.

Climate Council Head of Advocacy Dr Jennifer Rayner said: "We need a national environment law which helps Australia deal with the climate crisis that is already battering our environment, and communities, right around the country.

“This means setting the law up so that it can say a quick yes to responsible renewable energy and clean industry projects, which will help us drive down emissions while delivering good new jobs. And so it can provide a decisive no to big polluting projects that are going to pile on more climate harm.

“The first consultation drafts of the government’s reforms, released to stakeholders this week, are a huge missed opportunity. There is simply nothing there for climate, despite the loud and growing calls from communities and experts around the country to deal with this major environmental threat.

“The Albanese Government should put climate at the heart of this law so that it properly protects our environment, and the precious natural places we all rely on for healthy, safe and prosperous lives.”


About us:

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.

 

For further information, go to: climatecouncil.org.au

Or follow us on social media: facebook.com/climatecouncil and twitter.com/climatecouncil


Contact details:

For interviews please contact George Hyde on 0431 330 919 or george.hyde@climatecouncil.org.au

Media

More from this category

  • Environment
  • 17/04/2024
  • 11:32
The Nature Conservancy

Historic donation to The Nature Conservancy supports protection of unique biodiversity haven by Queensland Government

A $21 million donation to The Nature Conservancy – most likely the single largest donation to buy land for conservation in Australian history –…

  • Contains:
  • Energy, Environment
  • 17/04/2024
  • 10:52
TALENT ALERT

AUSTRALIAN MADE: Federal Government tipped to announce hundreds of millions of dollars to process critical minerals for renewable technology in Gladstone

Kahn Goodluck, Councillor, Gladstone Regional Council, said: ‘’Gladstone is at the heart of Australia's renewable energy revolution and this is another boost our region needs as we move to cut climate pollution. If we continue on this path, with our regions at the forefront of the global move to net zero, we'll see these areas continue to thrive as jobs and opportunities arise. The world is rapidly transitioning away from coal, so investment in sustainable industries, like green refining and domestic manufacturing related to renewable energy, will ensure central QLD has strong employment opportunities well into the future.’’ Interview availability…

  • Environment, Science
  • 17/04/2024
  • 09:32
UNSW Sydney

Climate change is wiping out rare bacteria in a ‘greening’ Antarctica

A warming climate in Antarctica is leading to a shift in the balance of the ecosystem’s microbes which in turn could accelerate the warming climate. Plenty is known about the existential threat of climate change to plants and animals. But by comparison, we know very little about how microorganisms will be affected by climate change. And until recently, our knowledge of microorganisms in Antarctica was non-existent, where the effects of climate change are arguably the most profound. But a paper published recently inConservation Biologyprovides a new snapshot of the changing composition of microorganisms in Antarctica. Professor Belinda Ferrariwith UNSW Sydney’sSchool…

Media Outreach made fast, easy, simple.

Feature your press release on Medianet's News Hub every time you distribute with Medianet. Pay per release or save with a subscription.