Press release -
Anjali Sharma, from Melbourne, Australia, is presented as the fourth finalist for the 2021 Children’s Climate Prize
Anjali Sharma, a seventeen-year-old from Melbourne, Australia, made history when she filed a class action lawsuit in the Federal Court against the country’s Minister for the Environment. On May 27, 2021, Australia’s Court of Justice deemed that the Minister for the Environment now has a “duty of care” attached to its position of power, which entails changes to law, while setting a precedent for future cases. Anjali’s courage, strong arguments and drive to mobilize have inspired other young people, around the world, to pursue similar legal cases.
The Australian Minister for the Environment, Sussan Ley, was, recently, on the verge of approving the Vickery Extension Project, a proposed coal mine in the rural area of New South Wales. During its lifetime, this mine would contribute to an emission of 370 million metric tons of carbon dioxide and excavate 168 million metric tons of coal for exportation to Taiwan, Japan and South Korea. These emissions would damage the future of the global youth. Anjali wanted to put a stop to this and, thus, initiated a lawsuit against Australia’s Minister for the Environment together with seven other students. The case was brought before Australia’s Federal Court.
– Being a finalist for the Children’s Climate Prize is a really big honour and shows that some of the world’s largest institutions and organisations are on board with the youth’s demand for more climate action. Institutions like the UN and Australia’s Federal Court have heard our calls, and so have NGOs like the Children’s Climate Foundation, says Anjali Sharma.
On May 27, 2021, the Australian Federal Court concluded that the Minister for the Environment, Sussan Ley, has a “duty of care” attached to its position of power. This is a historic judgment and a major change in climate law disputes in Australia.
Despite this legal action, however, the Minister for the Environment, Sussan Ley, has approved Whitehaven Coal’s Vickery mine site in NSW. The September 16th approval enables Whitehaven, one of the country’s largest coal mining companies, to expand the mine for the extraction of up to 10 million metric tons of coal per year. This development comes as a surprise in light of the Court of Justice’s decision on the responsibility of the Minister not to harm the youth and their future, as well as the fact that the case is subject to ongoing legal action. The Minister has also decided to appeal the judgement on ‘duty of care,’ meaning Anjali is currently working with her legal team to compile more evidence to present to the court.
– It’s clear to see that only governments are dragging their feet now, and that as the world inches closer and closer to climate devastation, pressure is increasing for stringent climate policies and ambitious reductions targets. Governments can’t ignore the call for much longer, says Anjali Sharma.
Should the “duty of care” remain in law, there is potential for additional lawsuits against the Minister for the Environment, opening up more cases against individual projects. The Children’s Climate Prize jury finds Anjali’s courage and drive to mobilize impressive. Challenging the fossil industry’s strong forces is no easy feat.
Class-Action against Australien Environment Minister – Tackling climate change in the courtroom
Anjali Sharma, 17 years old from Melbourne, Australia
The jury’s motivation:
Too often, policymakers and leaders make decisions based on short-term financial considerations, even if that can have major negative impacts over a longer period of time. The result may mean that future generations will have to bear the costs. Anjali is a colorful example of the power that more and more young people are flexing to achieve change. And it also shows how young people can challenge entire industries and sectors by using the law. Anjali’s ability to mobilize is impressive and representative of a growing phenomenon in the world. It takes courage to challenge the current power and established structures and succeed in achieving a “duty of care” in a fossil fuel-heavy country such as Australia. Anjali is a major pioneer and her legal wrangling is historic in Australia. She is an inspiration for how young people can press for tangible changes and is therefore a role model for others.
The Children’s Climate Prize is an international prize annually awarded to young people who have made extraordinary efforts for the climate and environment. The award and financial support are managed by the Children’s Climate Foundation, which was initiated by the award’s founder Telge Energi. Based on Telge Energi’s belief in young people’s ability to drive change in the world, the award is now a part of their ongoing work for sustainable development and production of renewable energy in Sweden. The winners of the prize are celebrated at an award ceremony in November each year and receive a diploma, medal and prize money of SEK 100,000 to continue developing their projects.