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Aussie teens take on Government over climate change

Rebekah Cavanagh, March 1, 2021 6:45PM Herald Sun

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Melbourne teen Anjali Sharma, 16, is leading a class action lawsuit by eight Australian teens challenging Federal Minister for the Environment Susan Ley to protect young people from climate change. Picture: Jake Nowakowski media_cameraMelbourne teen Anjali Sharma, 16, is leading a class action lawsuit by eight Australian teens challenging Federal Minister for the Environment Susan Ley to protect young people from climate change. Picture: Jake Nowakowski

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Melbourne teen Anjali Sharma will this week take on Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley in a court challenge designed to stop coal mining projects.

The Year 11 Huntingtower School student is leading a landmark* Federal Court class action lawsuit by eight Australian teenagers to stop projects such as the proposed Vickery coal mine extension in New South Wales.

A class action is a court case brought about by a small group on behalf of a larger group of people who have experienced or could experience harm or loss.

If Ms Ley were to approve the mine, the students argue she would be breaching* her common law duty of care to protect younger people against the future harms of climate change.

“We have surpassed* so many opportunities to address the climate change crisis,” Anjali said.

“A safe climate and an increase in fossil fuel production are incompatible*.

“Given the impacts we’ve already experienced, and what the future holds if we don’t act now, approving new coal mines will simply further harm young Australians.”

A five-day trial kicks off in the Federal Court on Tuesday, with 16-year-old Anjali hoping it will set a precedent to stop government approval of new fossil fuel projects.

Setting a precedent is when an earlier action or event can be used as an example for future similar situations.

She said Whitehaven Coal’s Vickery extension project will result in an estimated 370 million tonnes of carbon emissions over the next 25 years; the equivalent of about 70 per cent of Australia’s total domestic* emissions from 2019.

The government has agreed to hold off making a decision on the Vickery extension project until after the trial.

David Barnden, Principal at Equity Generation Lawyers, said the case is the first in Australia but the latest in a wave of legal cases around the world holding governments to account over their duty to act on climate change.

He said since the case was filed, more than 1500 young people had asked to join the class action.

“With their future at stake, it stands to reason young people in Australia are taking the fight to those in power,” Mr Barnden said.

GLOSSARY

  • landmark: an event marking an important turning point
  • breaching: break or fail to observe a law or code of conduct
  • surpassed: be greater than
  • incompatible: two things so different they can’t exist together
  • domestic: relating to houses rather than industry

EXTRA READING

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World’s scientists unite on climate

Climate change: what it means for Australians

Aussie boy youngest to speak at UN

QUICK QUIZ

  1. Why is Anjali in the news?
  2. Who else is involved in the lawsuit?
  3. Who is Sussan Ley?
  4. What is a precedent? How does it relate to this story?
  5. Why is the number 370 million tonnes mentioned?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. Kids and Lawsuits
If this class action turns out to be successful and stops future mining projects going ahead, what other issues could teenagers and the future of our world take up with our government?

Work with a partner and compile some issues that worry you going into the future.

Record your answers in a two-column table with the issues listed in the left column and what you’d like to change about it in the right column.

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Personal and social, Critical and creative thinking

2. Extension
Anjali is quoted in the article as saying “We have surpassed so many opportunities to address the climate change crisis” — what opportunities do you think she is referring to?

Work with a partner and discuss these in a group with others. Is the government doing enough to stop climate change?

Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Science, Critical and creative thinking

VCOP ACTIVITY
Aside from this, there is also this!
Brackets are a great literacy tool for adding aside comments, or comments that could be covered over and the sentence still makes sense. What’s inside the brackets is extra information.

They can be used for a variety of effects: to add more detail, to add humour, to connect with the reader etc.

My little brother, (the funniest kid I know) got himself into big trouble today.

Select 3 sentences from the article to add an aside comment to using brackets. Think about not only what you want to add to the sentence, but also what effect you are trying to create

HAVE YOUR SAY: What do you think of Anjali’s efforts?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

Extra Reading in civics