A group of Australian child environmentalists have lost their court bid to force the federal government to ban a coal mine expansion.
The eight children, aged 13 to 17, had argued in the Federal Court that Environment Minister Sussan Ley had a duty of care to protect younger people against climate change.
Ley is considering whether to approve the Vickery mine expansion in New South Wales state. The Whitehaven Coal-owned mine expansion is estimated to release 100 million metric tons (110 million U.S. tons) of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
The children sought an injunction to prevent its expansion but Justice Mordy Bromberg rejected their application.
The judge found Ley did owe the children a duty of care under the law of negligence. However, he pointed out there was no ‘reasonable understanding’ to establish Ley would breach her duty of care to the children.
Bromberg found there was a "real" risk that the extension of the mine near the town of Gunnedah would likely cause a "tiny but measurable increase to global average surface temperatures."
"Perhaps the most startling of the potential harms demonstrated by the evidence before the court is that 1 million of today's Australian children are expected to suffer at least one heat stress episode serious enough to require acute care in a hospital," Bromberg said.
He added that many thousands will suffer premature death from heat stress or bushfire smoke. Substantial economic loss and property damage will be experienced and the Great Barrier Reef and most of Australia's eastern eucalypt forests will cease to exist.
The children's lawyer David Barnden called the judgment a victory.
"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.
Ley's office said she would consider the judgment before making any public statement.
The children who filed the case are led by 17-year-old Anjali Sharma with the aid of a so-called litigation guardian, Catholic nun Sister Brigid Arthur, 86.
One of the children, 17-year-old Ava Princi, said the judgment was a relief and called on Ley to ensure the mine extension doesn’t happen.
"This is the first time a court of law anywhere in the world has recognized that a government minister has a duty of care to protect young people from the catastrophic harms of climate change," Princi told reporters.
The judge called for lawyers for the children and the minister to make further submissions by June 3 on what orders he should make in light of his reasons for judgment.
Includes reporting from AP