A group of eight Australian youth environmentalists have lost a court battle to convince the federal government to prohibit the expansion of a coal mine.
Sussan Ley, the Environment Minister, had a duty to safeguard younger people from climate change, according to the complainants - aged 13 to 17. The teenagers sought an injunction to stop the expansion of the Vickery mine in New South Wales.
Justice Mordy Bromberg denied their petition saying there was no reasonable expectation that the minister would deliberately harm younger people. However, she added that expanding the mine would result in an additional 33 million metric tons of coal being taken over 25 years and 100 million tons of CO2 being discharged into the atmosphere.
However, their lawyer, David Barnden, claimed success saying the decision meant the government had a responsibility to avert future climate damage.
"The court has found the minister owes a duty of care to younger children, vulnerable people and that duty says the minister must not act in a way that causes future harm of climate change to younger people," Barnden told reporters.
"This is an amazing decision...an amazing recognition that people in power must not harm younger people by their decisions."
The court determined Ley owed the children a duty of care under negligence law but that a reasonable understanding had not been demonstrated that Ley would breach her duty of care to the complainants.
Bromberg found that extending the mine near Gunnedah had a serious risk of causing a "tiny but measurable increase in global average surface temperatures."
Before making any public statements, Ley's office said she would study the judgment.
The lawsuit parallels a ruling last month by Germany's top court, which stated the government must set concrete goals for cutting greenhouse gas emissions after 2030, arguing that current legislation puts too much of the burden on younger generations to combat climate change.
The decision was a triumph for climate campaigners from Germany and other countries who had filed four cases with the Constitutional Court, claiming that their rights were being jeopardized by a lack of targets beyond the next decade.