Friday, February 08, 2019

Climate change: A step in the right direction

Some good news on climate change from Australia: for the first time, a court has refused permission for a new coal mine, explicitly on the basis of climate change:

The controversial Rocky Hill coalmine in the Hunter Valley will not go ahead after a landmark ruling in the land and environment court on Friday that cited the impact it would have had on climate change.

Chief judge Brian Preston dismissed an appeal by Gloucester Resources, which was seeking to overturn a New South Wales government decision to reject an open-cut mine because of its impact on the town of Gloucester, north of Newcastle.


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.”

If humanity is to avoid the worst of climate change, we need to stop burning coal, and this decision is exactly what is needed to push Australia down that path. Meanwhile in New Zealand our consent authorities are specifically forbidden to consider the effects of climate change when considering direct discharges of greenhouse gases, which suggests they're even more strongly forbidden from considering the indirect damage caused by extracting fossil fuels. It would be good if the current government changed that.