Teenagers’ climate change case overturned on appeal

Sr Brigid Arthur (fourth from left) and Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi (third from right) with seven of the eight teenagers who brought the original case (ABC News/Michael Slezak)

Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley has successfully appealed against a high-profile court decision that found she had a duty of care to protect young people from the climate crisis when assessing fossil fuel developments. Source: The Guardian.

Eight teenagers and Brigidine Sister Brigid Arthur last year sought an injunction to prevent Ms Ley from approving a proposal by Whitehaven Coal to expand the Vickery coalmine in northern New South Wales, arguing that the minister had a common law duty of care to protect younger people against future harm from climate change.

Justice Mordecai Bromberg found the minister had a duty of care to not act in a way that would cause future harm to younger people, but he did not grant the injunction as he was not satisfied the minister would breach her duty of care.

The full bench of the Federal Court yesterday overturned that judgment, deciding that while Justice Bromberg’s findings were “open to be made”, the duty of care should not be imposed on the minister.

The three justices who heard the appeal gave different reasons for their decision. They included that court processes were unsuitable to determine matters of public policy and that the protection of the public from personal injury caused by the effects of climate change was not a responsibility of the minister under Australia’s environment laws.

The teenagers who brought the class action, supported by Sr Brigid, an 87-year-old sister and former teacher who volunteered to be their litigation guardian, said they would consider an appeal to the High Court.

Sr Brigid said climate justice demanded that “we pay attention to the harm that we are doing both to the planet and the future children that will inhabit this planet”.


Sussan Ley does not have duty of care to protect young from climate crisis, appeal court rules (By Adam Morton and Tamsin Rose, The Guardian)


Children's climate change case overturned on appeal as Federal Court dismisses government's 'duty of care' (ABC News)

Federal Environment Minister does not have a duty of care to protect children from climate harm: court (Sydney Morning Herald

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