Over the last year or two an increasing number of people have realised that climate change is not something that will affect us in twenty or more years. It’s affecting us now. The continuing severe drought as well as the unprecedented fires in this country and elsewhere are some of the signs that time is running out for effective action to prevent the onset of more catastrophic impacts .
This realisation about the present reality and mounting threat of climate change has been reflected in two significant decisions against coal projects in NSW this year.
In late 2017 Gloucester Resources had its application for the Rocky Hill Coal Project near Gloucester on the Mid North Coast rejected by the Independent Planning Commission. The company appealed this decision in the Land and Environment Court.
Early in 2019 this Court refused the appeal on a range of grounds, but what was significant was what was said about climate change. The chief judge stated that emissions from the mine and its coal product would increase total global greenhouse concentrations at a time when a rapid and deep decrease in emissions was needed.
Last week the Independent Planning Commission announced it had refused approval to Kepco’s even larger coal mine in the Bylong Valley, 55km from Mudgee. In a statement the Commission said, “The project is not in the public interest because it is contrary to the principles of ESD [ecologically sustainable development] - namely intergenerational equity because the predicted economic benefits would accrue to the present generation but the long-term environmental, heritage and agricultural costs will be borne by the future generations.”
In referring to the greenhouse gas implications of the mine, the Commission cited the comments made by the Land and Environment Court Chief Judge in the Rocky Hill mine judgement earlier this year.
These decisions have set a precedent in NSW which may serve as an example to other states. In addition it has been welcomed by those concerned about climate change who oppose the opening of new coal mines.
This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on September 23, 2019