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High Court coal-climate ruling appealed

High Court coal-climate ruling appealed

West Coast Environment Network is filing a notice of appeal today against a High Court decision which ruled climate change irrelevant for coal mining consents.

The small West Coast group is fighting against proposed coal mines on the Stockton-Denniston plateaux and says that climate change should be weighed up along with other factors such as acid mine drainage and biodiversity loss.

“Even the companies admit that this coal will contribute to climate change,” says spokesperson Lynley Hargreaves. “So why can't we call evidence on it?”

The group intended to call evidence from NASA's Dr James Hansen at the October Environment Court hearing on the Escarpment mine, a open-cast coal mine planned by Australian company Bathurst Resources for the Denniston Plateau.

But Bathurst Resources and state-owned miner Solid Energy won declarations from the Environment and High Courts that climate change is excluded from coal mining – and by implication other – RMA considerations.

“Our overarching environmental legislation shouldn't ignore the most serious threat facing humanity today,” says Ms Hargreaves. “Resource consent hearings already take other complex matters into account; climate impacts need to be weighed up too. If they're not then we risk the CO2 from this coal – which is unlikely to come under any carbon tax, emissions trading scheme or Kyoto target – never being considered at all.”

“The West Coast is actually quite vulnerable to climate change, both in terms threats to our biodiversity and the flood risks from higher seas and heavier rainfall. A 2005 NIWA study found that by the 2080s, a 1-in-50-year flood could cover 80 percent of Westport,” she adds. “When the coal is gone, we're going to be left paying for the consequences.”


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