Bushfire survivors will be allowed to present expert scientific evidence on climate change in their landmark case against the NSW Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), the Land and Environment Court has ruled.
It’s the first time an Australian court has ruled on whether evidence on climate change can be allowed to be heard in a case involving an alleged failure by a Government agency to perform a statutory duty.
EDO’s clients Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action (BSCA), a group of people who have experienced first-hand the devastation caused by major bushfires, launched the legal action against the NSW EPA in April, over its lack of greenhouse gas emissions policy.
BSCA are seeking to encourage and, if necessary, compel the NSW statutory authority to develop policies to measure and regulate greenhouse gases in the state.
BSCA argues that the EPA is not only explicitly empowered by its legislation to take strong action on climate by controlling the emission of greenhouse gases, it is also required to do this under its own laws.
This latest court ruling means that evidence from former Australian Chief Scientist Professor Penny Sackett will be presented in the case.
Importantly, this ruling permits evidence on whether the emissions trajectories for New South Wales, Australia, and the world, are in line with Paris Climate Agreement goals to limit global warning to 1.5 degrees Celsius, and to examine the link between climate change and bushfire risk.
EDO’s Director of Legal Strategy Elaine Johnson says this is a significant development for the case.
“We are pleased that our clients are now able to present robust scientific evidence about climate change and its impact on people and the environment, and we welcome these orders by the court.
“As a result of these orders, bushfire survivors will, for the first time, be able to put evidence before a Court on the link between climate change and bushfire risk. Following the devastation of the Black Summer bushfires, and the recent findings of the Royal Commission into natural disasters, that is a significant step forward. The orders also permit expert evidence on whether or not the world, Australia and NSW are on target to reduce emissions in line with the Paris goals.
“We hope this ruling to make it easier in future for similar cases to hear evidence about the causes and effects of climate change.”
The matter is listed for a further directions hearing on November 20th 2020.
A link to the decision can be found here: https://www.caselaw.nsw.gov.au/decision/175909c758d2e928125e3c16