A Duty Of Care
May 26, 2021 6:35 PM   Subscribe

Eight children and an octogenarian nun took the Australian Minister for the Environment to court, to establish whether there is a 'duty of care' to future generations, relating to climate change. The Australian Federal Court today ruled that the duty of care exists.
'491. ...By reference to contemporary social conditions and community standards, a reasonable Minister for the Environment ought to have the Children in contemplation when facilitating the emission of 100 Mt of CO2 into the Earth’s atmosphere. It follows that the applicants have established that the Minister has a duty to take reasonable care to avoid causing personal injury to the Children when deciding, under s 130 and s 133 of the EPBC Act, to approve or not approve the Extension Project.'
posted by Fiasco da Gama (18 comments total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
 
I seem to be constitutionally incapable of hopefulness, but this does appear to have been a hell of a day for the movement.
posted by ryanshepard at 6:44 PM on May 26 [5 favorites]


Thank god.
posted by aramaic at 6:53 PM on May 26


We cannot rely on any individual institution to save us, but I have been repeatedly encouraged over the past few years by the courts (some courts; some judges) making what seem to me to be just and moral rulings.

For so many of us, the notion of judges and courts means one of two unpleasant things: jury duty or getting sued. It's become a cliché (because it is so often true) that the courts are not about justice or right; they're about the law (with the crushing implication that the law is not merely distinct from justice and right, but actually in a different universe, if not directly opposed).

I am so appreciative of the care and clarity Judge Bromberg put into this ruling, and so deeply grateful to these eight courageous, unswerving young people - Sharma, Isolde, Ambrose, Tomas, Bella, Laura, Ava, and Luca - as well as Sister Marie Brigid Arthur.

Thank you so much for posting this, Fiasco da Gama. It's good to know when the courts help protect those who need protection - which, of course, is all of us.
posted by kristi at 6:54 PM on May 26 [9 favorites]


Anj says all eight have “very personal stories about climate change”, including the changing impact of the monsoon season on family members in India and witnessing firsthand the impact of fracking for coal-seam gas.

Hi! I have a firsthand account of a river nearby that's flammable thanks to fracking. Now, I'm not saying I'm irresponsible enough to light a river on fire. I would never say that. I'm sure you all remember the Australian wildfires last year, we take it very seriously. It's not for fun, it's not a game. Don't play with fire.

That said, here's a video of a man setting the Condamine river on fire.

Now, if you don't think burning rivers are a problem, I don't even know where to begin. We're not friends, you and I.
posted by adept256 at 7:16 PM on May 26 [19 favorites]




Wow. May Australia be the first of many across the world.
posted by biogeo at 8:35 PM on May 26 [2 favorites]


In other Australian coal-related news, Queensland's over-half-century-old coal-fired Callide Power Station caught fire on Tuesday and pretty much all of South East Queensland lost electricity. Now, I'm not saying that distributed community solar grids and battery banks don't catch fire, but when they do they don't impact nearly a million people.

Edit: We were at the gym which is in a complex with a genny (presumably) so the first we knew about the blackout was when we were driving home and everybody was driving more like fuckwits than usual - because the traffic lights were out.
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:42 PM on May 26 [5 favorites]


May Australia be the first of many across the world.

It isn’t, there have been similar court cases brought - and most won more roundly - in Colombia, the Netherlands, Germany, Portugal, and there are many others pending elsewhere around the globe. Here’s a useful climate-case-watch compendium site.
posted by progosk at 9:51 PM on May 26 [6 favorites]


I only skimmed the judgment and may have missed something, but ISTM that the "duty of care" doesn't extend to future generations, but only ones presently in existence. The government does have a statutory duty to preserve the environment for future generations, but that's a different thing and it doesn't really protect people's rights in the same way.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:04 PM on May 26 [1 favorite]


It needs to be remembered that the leading faction in the present Australian Government, along with their leading enablers in the Murdoch media, are a pack of smirking self-satisfied shits who have a record of doing whatever the fuck their mates in the extractive industries suggest to them over a few beers that they should.

These people have nothing but contempt for those less privileged than themselves and give zero fucks about climate change because they are simply not capable of imagining that it might affect them personally in any way. And none of them have ever given any indication that they have spent any time contemplating the conditions in which even their own children will need to live. What they have is rat political cunning coupled with zero detectable intellect.

So yes, this is good news and a definite moral victory, but moral victories are useful only to the extent that they translate into political victories and it is very, very important that none of us take our eye off the organizing ball.

Queensland's over-half-century-old coal-fired Callide Power Station caught fire on Tuesday and pretty much all of South East Queensland lost electricity

Cue the usual suspects finding a way to take this opportunity to bleat about "unreliable" wind and solar power in 3... 2...
posted by flabdablet at 4:46 AM on May 27 [3 favorites]


It follows that the applicants have established that the Minister has a duty to take reasonable care to avoid causing personal injury to the Children when deciding, under s 130 and s 133 of the EPBC Act, to approve or not approve the Extension Project.

Is there an actionable definition of "reasonable care" in Australian law that the Minister must follow? Or, will this end up meaning all the Minister has to do is add a paragraph about him taking "reasonable care" in making his decision to approve whatever the fuck he wants anyway?

I mean, is this just going to mean business as usual, but with a extra small bit of box-ticking?
posted by Thorzdad at 5:07 AM on May 27 [3 favorites]


I expect so. But the point of this kind of thing is that every newly recognized duty of care is a brick in a wall, and the hope is that eventually that wall will get big enough and thick enough that we can wall these useless fucknuckles in behind it and keep them away from the levers of power, in favour of people whose actions automatically tick those boxes because their entire ethical framework has just assumed those duties from the get-go.
posted by flabdablet at 6:31 AM on May 27 [1 favorite]




--in a complex with a genny (presumably)--

Ahaahaa. I wonder how many people know that they meant generator? I've never heard "genny" used before, but such truncations are rife in the land of Oz. Well played sir/ma'am.
posted by peacay at 8:44 PM on May 29


Oh, yes, sorry, "generator" is of course what I meant.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:38 PM on June 2


It's a completely standard usage, as in "the tinnies are in the esky, chuck the genny in the ute and we can fuck off up the bush".
posted by flabdablet at 9:35 PM on June 2 [2 favorites]


That is filthy.
posted by biogeo at 10:27 PM on June 2


Yeah, nah. 'Sall good.
posted by flabdablet at 5:21 AM on June 3 [2 favorites]


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