A landmark ruling by the NSW Land and Environment Court will require the state Environment Protection Authority (EPA) to take action on greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. 

The ruling requires the EPA to develop “policies to ensure environment protection from climate change”, finding the organisation had previously failed in its duty to do so. 

It follows a case launched by Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action (BSCA) against the EPA.

“Global warming is creating the conditions that can lead to hotter and fiercer fires, and all of us need to work to make sure we’re doing everything we can to prevent a disaster like we saw during 2019 and 2020,” BSCA president, Jo Dodds said. 

Jo Dodds

According to the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) which argued the case, it is the first time an Australian Court has ordered a government to take meaningful action on climate change.

EDO director of legal strategy, Elaine Johnson described it as, “a major step forward in holding governments to account on climate.” 

“As our lead environmental regulator, the EPA has the power to take immediate action on climate change, for example, by putting a price on carbon, or requiring industry to reduce emissions to safe levels through the licences. Now, the EPA has been ordered to take action.”

Nature Conservation Council chief executive Chris Gambian said the outcome should send a chill through the state’s most polluting industries, including the electricity and commercial transport sectors. 

“Most people will be astonished to learn the EPA has until now not regulated greenhouse gases, which are arguably our most dangerous environmental pollutants,” he said. 

“But that will now have to change after the court found the EPA had a duty to address climate change, which is the most significant challenge our society has ever faced.”

“This is a great day for environmental justice.”

The EPA has been ordered to pay BSCA’s court costs.

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