The Guardian • Issue #1980

Two new coal mines green-lit, gov’t ignores climate emergency

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #1980

The federal government continues to fail Australia’s future generations as it deepens its commitment to coal. On the 16th of this month, it was announced that the Whitehaven Coal’s Vickery mine extension in northern New South Wales was green-lit. While referred to as an extension, there is no mine at the location, but the current project intends to extend the smaller, previously approved Whitehaven project that was not built.

This was the second such announcement in two weeks, following the Wollongong coal expansion the week prior.

Both approvals come after federal courts found that federal environment minister Sussan Ley had a duty of care to protect young people from the climate crisis – a finding Ley is attempting to appeal.

Environmental advocates across the country have expressed their frustration at the Morrison government’s denial of our climate reality.

One of the eight students who brought the case against Ley, Ava Princi, an 18-year-old from Sydney stated that “[t]he decision to approve this mine comes only weeks after the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned of the urgent need to stop the extraction and burning of coal to contain global warming.” “In approving the mine, Minister Ley has turned her back on the federal court, the international scientific consensus on climate change, and the children and young people of Australia,” Princi said.

Echoing Princi’s comments lawyer David Barnden, who represented the students in the case, said the legal team was considering further legal action saying that “[t]he approval is a surprise in light of the federal court’s careful reasoning establishing the minister’s duty of care not to harm children […]. The Morrison government’s decision signals to the world that Australia does not appear prepared to act responsibly to protect children from climate harms.”

In a baffling statement defending the approval, Whitehaven – the company behind the mine – said that “the company sees a continuing role for high-quality coal of the type Vickery will produce in contributing to global CO2 emissions reduction and containment efforts while simultaneously supporting economic development in our near region.”

Australian Greens environment spokesperson, Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, said of Ley’s decisions that she has once again proven “she’s the minister against the environment, not for,” adding, “[w]e are weeks away from the Glasgow climate summit where the rest of the world will commit to strong targets to reduce pollution and plans to move away from fossil fuels. […] Expanding coal in the middle of the climate crisis is madness.”

We cannot allow the expansion of mines, or the development of new ones, to continue. Instead, we must continue to fight for the expansion and development of renewable energies. Unlike the former, renewable energy technologies won’t damage the planet and will create long-term, not short-term, jobs in a new emerging sector. If we do not act soon, we run the risk of creating a planet uninhabitable for future generations to come.

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