Guest essay by Eric Worrall
An Australian court has just rejected an application to build a new coal mine, because of the alleged impact burning coal extracted from the mine would have on global warming.
Court rules out Hunter Valley coalmine on climate change grounds
Fri 8 Feb 2019 10.20 AEDT Last modified on Fri 8 Feb 2019 11.23 AEDT
In his judgment, Preston explicitly cited the project’s potential impact on climate change, writing that an open-cut coalmine in the Gloucester Valley “would be in the wrong place at the wrong time”.
“Wrong place because an open cut coal mine in this scenic and cultural landscape, proximate to many people’s homes and farms, will cause significant planning, amenity, visual and social impacts,” he wrote.
“Wrong time because the GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions of the coal mine and its coal product will increase global total concentrations of GHGs at a time when what is now urgently needed, in order to meet generally agreed climate targets, is a rapid and deep decrease in GHG emissions. These dire consequences should be avoided. The project should be refused.”
The chief executive of EDO NSW, David Morris, said the findings were historic for Australian communities that had been trying to fight new fossil fuel projects because of climate change.
“It’s very difficult to see how any future coal project avoids the judge’s finding about this being the wrong time for it,” he said.
Morris said Australia was increasingly approaching a moment when approval of a fossil fuel project could be considered “unreasonable”.
“And unreasonableness is a ground of legal challenge,” he said.
You might be tempted to believe that a broad judicial attack against industry which indirectly provides jobs for 120,000 Australians, and earns billions of dollars for the Australian economy could be interpreted by observers as an act of economic sepukku.
But Australian politicians have a plan; they hope that any income lost by shuttering climate damaging industries like coal extraction will soon be replaced by what they claim is a trillion dollar export opportunity, selling green hydrogen fuel produced by electrolysing water using solar energy to China.