Australia fights court ruling of a climate duty of care

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — The Australian government on Monday began its legal challenge to a judge’s landmark decision that the administration has a duty of care to prevent future climate change.

The Federal Court battle over a proposed coal mine expansion comes as Prime Minister Scott Morrison battles to persuade his conservative government colleagues to commit to a zero emissions target for Australia by 2050.

The legal battle was started by a group of eight Australian teenage environmentalists, aged 13 to 17, who attempted to force the government to ban an expansion of Whitehaven Coal’s Vickery mine.

Justice Mordy Bromberg in May rejected their bid, while noting the mine expansion would lead to an additional 33 million metric tons (36 million U.S. tons) of coal being extracted over 25 years and 100 million metric tons (110 million U.S. tons) of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere.

But the children’s lawyers claimed a victory in that Bromberg also ruled the government has a duty to prevent future climate harm.

Environment Minister Sussan Ley has since approved the mine expansion.