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Landmark Australian ruling rejects coal mine over global warming

The case is the first time a mine has been refused in the country because of climate change.

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An open cut coal mine from above in Hunter Valley, NSW, Australia

Australia is the world's leading exporter of coal.Credit: Redbrickstock.com/Alamy

An Australian court has rejected an application for an open-cut coal mine because of its potential contribution to greenhouse-gas emissions and global warming.

The New South Wales Land and Environment Court turned down an appeal by mining company Gloucester Resources, which had sought to overturn a previous government decision against establishing a coal mine near the town of Gloucester in the Hunter Valley.

It is the first time a new coal mine has been rejected in Australia, the world’s leading coal exporter, because of the potential contribution to global warming.

In his ruling, chief judge Brian Preston said the project should be refused because “the greenhouse-gas emissions (GHGs) of the coal mine and its product will increase global total concentrations of GHGs at a time when what is now urgently needed, in order to meet generally agreed climate targets, is a rapid and deep decrease in GHG emissions.”

In January, Australia experienced its hottest month on record. Meanwhile, extreme weather events have caused major destruction in large parts of the country — fires have burned about 3% of Tasmania and northern Queensland has been inundated by rain, causing unprecedented flooding. Extreme weather events are forecast to become more frequent in many parts of the world as a result of climate change.

doi: 10.1038/d41586-019-00545-8
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