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Australian Environmental Law

Joseph Sax wrote his seminal book Defending the Environment in 1970, in which he considered the ways in which civil society could litigate to protect the environment. Little could Sax have imagined the opportunities available today in many jurisdictions in Australia for ordinary citizens and environmental groups to challenge the environmental credentials of major projects. One area of intense activity is now climate change. The Environment Defender's Office reports on one of the most important cases to date in its recent bulletin:

EDO Queensland and barristers Chris McGrath and Stephen Keim SC are acting for the Queensland Conservation Council (QCC) in the first climate change case in a Queensland Court. The case objects to Xstrata Coal Qld’s mining lease expansion at an open cut coal mine west of Mackay, because of the 72-96 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions (15% of Australia’s annual emissions) which will be produced from the mining, transport and use of the coal from the mine over its 15 year lifespan. The case aims to have the true costs of greenhouse emissions recognised and conditions imposed to avoid, reduce or offset the emissions, such as by planting carbon sinks. EDO Queensland and QCC have now secured top experts to give evidence to the Land and Resources Tribunal, including Emeritus Professor Ian Lowe on climate change science, Dr Hugh Saddler on calculation of greenhouse gas emissions, Ben Keogh on the range of offset measures available, Jon Norling on the economic impacts of climate change, Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg on the impacts of climate change on the Great Barrier Reef and Dr Stephen Williams on the broader ecological impacts of climate change.


The Australian Centre for Environmental Law here at the Law School is holding a conference in conjunction with the Environmental Defender's Office, Sydney on 16 and 17 February.

The conference will examine the intersections between legal disciplines and the environment. Experts, across a broad range of legal disciplines will reflect on how their areas of law impact on the environment.

The Keynote Speaker will be Professor Kevin Gray from Trinity College, University of Cambridge. Professor Gray will speak on the topic “Can environmental regulation amount to a taking of common law property rights”.

The Conference will be held at The Portside Centre, 207 Kent Street, Sydney.

Cost of attendance:

Corporate Rate ($550); NGO rate ($300); Academic/Individual Rate $200; Student/Concession Rate $100

A full copy of the brochure including program and registration form is available here.

For more information, please contact Ms Val Carey, Sydney Law School, Telephone (02) 9351 0238 or email.


Before Christmas the Federal Court found in favour of Greens leader, Senator Bob Brown, in an application he brought concerning contraventions of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth) by Forestry Tasmania. In his decision Marshall J accepted Senator Brown's argument that forestry operations in the Wielangta State Forest are having or are likely to have a significant impact on three threatened species (the Tasmanian wedge-tail eagle, the broad-toothed stag beetle and the swift parrot). The nub of the decision was that Forestry Tasmania did not enjoy an exemption from relevant provisions of the EPBC Act seeking to protect threatened species. This was because such an exemption only applied if the forestry activities were carried out in accordance with the Tasmanian Regional Forestry Agreement, and in this case the operations did not follow the RFA because they did not involve appropriate protection measures for the threatened species.

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