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.