12th of February 2023
The appeal hearing relating to the Living Wonders Cases will begin on Monday 12 and Tuesday 13 February, where three Federal Court judges will assess whether Australia’s Environment Minister, Tanya Plibersek, is required by law to scrutinise the climate harm of new coal and gas projects.
The Environment Council of Central Queensland (represented by Environmental Justice Australia) is challenging the Minister’s risk assessment of the Narrabri and Mount Pleasant coal mine proposals in NSW, marking the first court challenges to a coal or gas decision made by Australia’s current Environment Minister.
The Council is appealing last year’s decision of a single judge to the Full Bench of the Federal Court.
The litigation stems from a series of reconsideration requests submitted by the Council under the current Environment Protection Biodiversity and Conservation Act. The requests asked Minister Plibersek to reconsider 19 coal and gas proposals because of their climate risks to our environment.
The outcome of these cases could impact the consideration of all future fossil fuel projects in the country, including Australia’s largest proposed new coal mine, Winchester South, which the Queensland government approved on the 7th of February.
The following experts are available to discuss the importance of considering climate harm when assessing fossil fuel projects, and the impact that a warming climate is having on our planet.
ENVIRONMENT COUNCIL OF CENTRAL QUEENSLAND
Christine Carlisle - President of the Environment Council of Central Queensland
Christine Carlisle has been involved in the Living Wonder cases since their inception.
Tony Fontes - Member of the Environment Council of Central Queensland
Tony Fontes is a veteran dive operator, his involvement in reef conservation started nearly 40 years ago when he realised that coral reefs are under pressure and little was being done to protect them. He has experienced first hand multiple coral bleaching events as ocean temperatures have continued to warm.
NB: As Christine and Tony will present for the Federal Court Judicial Review in Melbourne today and tomorrow, their availability for interviews will be limited, and only outside of the court hearing times.
CLIMATE CHANGE IMPACTS CAUSED BY BURNING OF FOSSIL FUELS
Dr Jodie Rummer – Reef scientist (James Cook University)
Location – Townsville, QLD
Dr Jodie’s specialty is coral reef fishes, including sharks and rays. She can talk about the impacts of climate change on Australia's most iconic Living Wonder, the Great Barrier Reef; she can discuss how oceans absorb heat from the atmosphere, and how emissions from burning fossil fuel is pushing the fish populations on the reef to the brink.
“In my work on the Great Barrier Reef, I've seen how climate change, driven by fossil fuel emissions, is pushing this iconic ecosystem to its limits. The 'Living Wonders Case' is a pivotal moment, urging us to shift from exploiting our natural wonders to truly safeguarding them. It is a call to action to protect the reef's vibrant life for future generations. Our actions today will determine the legacy we leave for future generations, which must be one of stewardship, ensuring the Great Barrier Reef remains a Living Wonder."
Dr Kate Wylie - Doctors for the Environment (Executive Director)
Location – Adelaide, SA
Dr Kate Wylie can discuss how all coal mine approvals add to the emissions that are warming our planet, with both the health of humans, and Australian threatened species, being negatively impacted by increased heat and extreme weather as a result of the burning of fossil fuels.
“Climate change is the greatest health problem facing humanity. The primary driver of climate change is the burning of fossil fuels and just like every cigarette is doing us damage, every coal mine and gas development is doing us damage as well.
“Every coal mine is worsening global heating and the climate health emergency.
“We are already seeing the terrible and frightening health impacts of climate change in Australia and across the globe - we are seeing people dying from heat related illnesses, from fires and the associated smoke inhalation, from flooding and severe storms.
"2023 was the hottest year on record. In Australia we have had extreme heat waves over the summer, with January 2024 having record breaking night time temperatures. It is time to face the reality of the situation, burning fossil fuels is adding fuel to the global heating fire and it is high time we ditch them, embrace renewables and protect nature for the sake of the health of humans and all Australian species.”
Dr Elise Anderson - Vets for Climate Action, Regional Lead, Rural and Regional Program
Location – Melbourne, VIC
“As vets, we’re tasked with protecting the health and welfare of animals; and climate change - fueled by greenhouse gas emissions that primarily come from burning fossil fuels - is already a major problem for the health and welfare of all animals, domestic and wild, as well as whole species and the overall biodiversity that we all rely on.
“Vets for Climate Action represents over 2,000 vets in Australia who are concerned about this and want their voices to be heard to help protect animals. We're already seeing animals, including threatened species, suffer and die due to the effects of climate change in the form of worsened heat, floods, drought and fires. That's why we’re calling for stronger and faster reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, including no further fossil fuel expansion.
“Last year we saw 25 new additions to the threatened species list in Australia, with worsening climate extremes a major reason behind these species' demise. Continuing to approve new fossil fuel projects without considering the climate harm they may cause is at odds with the science, and will inevitably result in more species ending up on that list.
“We need the Environment Minister and our government to do better, to ensure a safe and liveable environment, and to protect the animals we love and care for.”
Dr Simon Bradshaw - Research Director, Climate Council
Location – Sydney, NSW
Dr Simon Bradshaw is a researcher on climate science and the impacts of a warming climate; his research covers extreme weather, bushfires, health, security and many other areas of climate science and impacts.
“For the government to be approving new coal mines, without considering the climate harm that comes from burning those fossil fuels, is extraordinarily reckless. The lifetime emissions of the two coal mines at the centre of this case total 1.35bn tonnes of carbon pollution – roughly triple Australia’s total emissions last year – which would significantly contribute to the warming of our planet.
There are many more fossil fuel applications currently sitting on the environment minister’s desk, including the Winchester South coal mine, which if approved, will be Australia's biggest greenfield coal mine. The results of the Living Wonders cases will affect all these approvals, and the future safety of communities in Australia and worldwide, who are already facing the devastating consequences of climate change.
“The impact on the people and places we love is clear - communities slammed by fires then floods, our precious ecosystems suffering irreparable damage. Any missed opportunity to leave coal and gas in the ground increases the danger we will face, and is condemning future Australians to greater hardships.”
To arrange interviews, please contact:
Sean Kennedy - Media Advisor - Climate Media Centre
m - 0447 121 378 e - firstname.lastname@example.org
Sean Kennedy - Media Advisor - Climate Media Centre
m - 0447 121 378