Anjali Sharma launched a campaign to establish a duty of care owed to young people for climate decisions earlier this week.
The duty would require decision makers to consider the likely impact of decisions that are harmful to the climate, on the health and wellbeing of current and future children, and to not make a decision that would pose a material risk of harm to their health and wellbeing.
Sharma told Honi that, “This bill is born out of years of advocacy by young people leading the charge for greater climate action. Recent years have been characterised by climate disaster increasing in both frequency and severity, and yet it has been young people who have stepped up, calling for our government to act in our best interests and safeguard our futures from catastrophic climate change.”
Sharma was the lead litigant in Sharma v Minister for the Environment which successfully established that young Australians are owed a duty to take reasonable care to protect them from the harms of climate change, before being overturned by the Federal Court on appeal.
“As a young person, I’m increasingly scared about my future. The past few years have seen climate disaster and temperatures that have broken records, and all evidence shows us that this will only get worse. We are at a crossroads in history where the government can either act in accordance with its duty to young people to deliver us a safe and liveable future, or set us on a path to climate catastrophe,” said Sharma.
As part of the campaign, ACT Senator David Pocock is introducing the Climate Change Amendment (Duty of Care and Intergenerational Equity) Bill 2023 to the Senate. Pocock said, in a media release, that “the focus on the short term – polls, the media cycle, the next election – need to end. We need to be looking at how our decisions impact young people and future generations.”
The duty would apply to decisions made under six pieces of environmental related legislation, including the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006, Infrastructure Australia Act 2008, Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility Act 2016, Export Finance and Insurance Corporation Act 1991 and National Reconstruction Fund Corporation Act 2023.
Sharma told Honi that, “What we are asking of the government is simple. As the future generation, we want our health and wellbeing to be a paramount consideration for the government when exercising its powers. Ultimately, caring for current and future generations should be the very essence of the government’s job.”The campaign is collecting signatures at dutyofcare.com to support the bill.