EDO scores ‘significant win’ for bushfire survivors
Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action, represented by the Environmental Defenders Office, has celebrated a court ruling that will compel serious climate change action to be taken.
Earlier this month, the climate action advocacy group took on the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) in a landmark case that allowed evidence on climate change to be heard in court. This week, they have celebrated a ruling that means the authority will have to take meaningful action on climate change.
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Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action (BSCA) was seeking orders from the Land and Environment Court to compel the EPA to develop objectives, guidelines and policies to ensure environmental protection from the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions and dangerous climate change.
This is the first time an Australian court has ordered a government to take serious action on greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.
Jo Dodds, BSCA president, said that this was “a significant win for everyone who has been affected by bushfires.”
“BSCA members have been working for years to rebuild their homes, their lives and their communities. This ruling means they can do so with confidence that the EPA must now also work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the state. Global warming is creating the conditions that can lead to hotter and fiercer fires, and all of us need to work to make sure we’re doing everything we can to prevent a disaster like we saw during 2019 and 2020,” she said.
“We are extremely grateful to the Environmental Defenders Office for their tireless efforts in pursuing the case.”
As part of the landmark case, BSCA presented expert scientific evidence from former Australian chief scientist Professor Penny Sackett on the links between bushfires and climate change – the first time evidence of its kind has been allowed to be presented to a court.
EDO director of legal strategy Elaine Johnson said that the “very significant legal decision” would lead to immediate action being taken.
“This is the first time an Australian court has ruled on a government agency failing to perform a statutory duty to address climate change,” she said.
“What it means is that the court has found the NSW Environment Protection Authority is compelled by its own legislation to seriously address the state’s greenhouse gas emissions and climate change
“As our lead environmental regulator, the EPA has the power to take immediate action on climate change, for example, by putting a price on carbon, or requiring industry to reduce emissions to safe levels through the licences. Now, the EPA has been ordered to take action.”
The court’s ruling means that the EPA has been ordered to develop environmental quality objectives guidelines and policies to ensure protection from climate change. Additionally, the authority has been ordered to pay BSCA’s costs.
“The most recent IPCC report confirmed that the next 10 years are critical, and we need to be pursuing urgent and deep reductions in emissions now in order to avoid the very worst impacts of climate change,” Ms Johnson said.
“Today’s decision is a major step forward in holding the government to account on climate policy.”