Three Significant Court Judgements
Every week, more evidence emerges showing the tide is turning in the environmental battle against those right-wing elements within governments worldwide who support the expansion of the fossil fuel industry.
Already, corporations are factoring climate change risks into their business models. Insurance companies have long since reacted, with increased premiums, and the banking sector, awake to the threat to their industry from stranded assets, are increasingly reluctant to back new fossil fuel investment.
Reinforcing those initiatives, three significant judgments have been handed down by courts in Australia and overseas in recent weeks. Firstly, the Australian Conservation Foundation’s win when the Federal Court overturned the Federal Environment Minister’s approval of Adani’s application to take water from a local river to service its Galilee Basin coal mine.
This judgment was based on the Minister’s failure to assess the impact of the proposal on Australia’s water resources which, the Environmental Defenders Office noted: “confirms that major coal and gas projects are subject to scrutiny by the Independent Expert Scientific Committee for all water impacts”, meaning that miners can no longer avoid scrutiny of their water use.
Then the Hague District Court, handed down a finding that Royal Dutch Shell has a duty to protect the human rights of Dutch citizens from climate harm. In that case Shell was effectively ordered to reduce its global emissions by 45% by 2030, including emissions caused by the use of its products.
Essentially that judgement means Shell could, in future, be held responsible for damages, an implication that will not be lost on other fossil fuel conglomerates.
Finally, The Australian Federal Court saw eight children challenge the Environment Minister’s approval of Whitehaven’s Vickery Coal Mine, the Court ruling that the Minister “owes a duty to take reasonable care not to cause climate harm to children, when deciding whether to approve a new development”, and that climate change poses a real risk of death and personal injury to Australian children, with greenhouse gas emissions from the Vickery mine increasing that risk of harm,
Clearly, the industry cannot continue business as usual.