The Supreme Court has today ruled in favour of Northland iwi leader Mike Smith’s (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Kahu) climate case continuing to trial. The case is against Fonterra and six other big polluters, including Genesis Energy and Z Energy.
In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court has found that Smith has the right to sue the seven big polluters for their role in causing climate change and denied the attempt by Fonterra and others to strike the case out. The Court has found that these big polluters may be liable for the harm their climate pollution causes.
In a statement, Mike Smith says he’s "delighted with today’s decision, and it is a vital step in holding climate polluters to account."
"These companies are actively contributing to climate change by emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere with no immediate plans to stop. They are putting profit ahead of the billions of people all over the world who are already suffering the effects of climate change. The planet is burning, and we need to hold those responsible to account," he says.
Greenpeace Aotearoa Executive Director Russel Norman says, "Fonterra’s dirty dairy industry is New Zealand's biggest climate polluter, and successive Governments have failed to hold them to account. But this hugely significant win by Mike Smith in the Supreme Court means we're one step closer to making the dairy industry clean up its dirty business."
"The world is facing a climate crisis, and every country, industry, and Government must do all that it can to reduce emissions right now. This ruling should be a strong signal that there are no exceptions.
"New Zealand must shift from such heavy reliance on dirty intensive dairy driven by synthetic nitrogen fertiliser and imported feed like palm kernel expeller (PKE), to a more diverse organic plant-based approach to food production.
"People across Aotearoa are willing to use every avenue possible to resist the intensive dairy industry, and now Mike Smith’s case has confirmed polluters like Fonterra could be held legally responsible for the climate devastation they’ve caused.
"We are committed to challenging the Fonterra-led intensive industrial dairy at every turn because everyone deserves a safe and stable climate and thriving environment. These big polluters have taken that right away from New Zealanders across the country, and now, the Supreme Court has put them on notice for their climate crimes."
Smith launched legal action against seven of the country’s largest polluters and fossil fuel producers in 2020, claiming injury from their ongoing emissions, and the case has been to the High Court and the Court of Appeal before today’s momentous decision.
Smith’s case can now proceed to a full trial in the High Court.