Environment Laws Must Address Climate Change
Perplexingly, while acknowledging the critical issue of climate change, Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek has approved four coal mines with 147 million tonnes of emissions since taking up her role last year. And she recently succeeded in joining coal companies to fight for the right to keep opening up new mines. Her rationale? Australia's core environment protection law, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act, is silent on the climate. The EPBC Act clearly needs an update to make climate impacts a central theme.
Australia stands at a pivotal moment with the undeniable reality of climate breakdown demanding decisive action. Yet, Minister Plibersek's repeated approval of new coal mines with massive emissions out to 2050 and beyond sends a different message. It's a dissonance from the extreme weather we are already facing and the authoritative global calls for immediate rectification, including from the head of the United Nations Antonio Guterres.
Climate change is a crisis that transcends political and national boundaries. The scientific consensus is clear, and climate impacts are becoming increasingly evident. Denying the link between Australia's coal and global climate change is factually inaccurate and morally indefensible.
But further to that, as a member of the Government, Minister Plibersek's role is not limited to passively adhering to existing legislation. It extends to making necessary changes to the law, especially when it is falling short of addressing the most pressing issues facing the nation. The EPBC Act is almost 25 years old. Designed to protect and conserve Australia's environment and biodiversity, it was a significant step forward at the time. But it is outdated and redundant in the face of the climate crisis. A key shortcoming is its failure to explicitly consider climate impacts of coal and gas projects.
It is incumbent upon the Prime Minister and Minister Plibersek to address this contradiction. A whopping 740 coal, oil and gas projects have been approved since the EPBC Act came into effect. It can and should be amended to include provisions that mandate consideration of climate risks in environmental assessments. This change is not only logical but also essential to ensuring Australia meets its global environmental responsibilities.
Addressing climate impacts through legislative change is a moral imperative. Australia has a duty to its citizens and the global community to confront the climate crisis head-on. Refusing to acknowledge the climate impacts of massive coal and gas projects is a failure of that duty. Our reputation and interests on the global stage is also at stake.
There is no room for delay. The Government urgently amend the EPBC Act. Failure to do so undermines any commitment to addressing the climate crisis. Environment laws must adapt to meet the challenges of our time. That means making climate impacts central.