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Sydney (AFP)

The teens suing to block an Australian coal mine expansion won a “historic” victory on Thursday, with a judge agreeing the project would cause them climate-related damage.

A group of eight high school students – backed by an activist octogenarian nun – have filed a class action lawsuit against Australia’s pro-coal Conservative government over a planned mine extension near Sydney.

While a federal judge dismissed the group’s calls for an injunction to stop the project altogether, he ruled that the government must take into account the damage the project would cause to the health, wealth and well-being of the country. group.

“The Minister has a duty to take reasonable precautions to avoid causing injury to children when deciding … whether to approve or not to approve the proposed extension,” Judge Mordy Bromberg concluded.

Legal experts said the ruling was important because it was the first time a court had accepted expert testimony on the vast potential impact of climate change on younger generations and the government’s duty to take this impact into account. by evaluating new fossil fuel projects.

In the ruling, Bromberg accepted heartbreaking expert evidence of a bleak future on a warming planet.

It was, he said, “what could be described as the greatest intergenerational injustice ever inflicted by one generation of humans on the next.”

“It is not only the vulnerability of children that I find powerful. It is also their innocence. They bear no responsibility for the unprecedented situation they are now facing,” he said.

Ava Princi, a 17-year-old litigator, described the judgment as an “exciting” first global victory for young people that should inspire further action.

“This is a historic decision. It is the first time that a court, anywhere in the world, has recognized that a government minister has a duty to protect young people from the catastrophic effects of climate change,” he said. she declared.

“This case concerned young people who mobilized and demanded more of adults whose actions determine our future well-being,” she added.

“I hope this case inspires more of us around the world to push for stronger, faster and deeper reductions in carbon emissions.”

Courts are increasingly becoming the front line in battles over the future of the planet.

A Dutch court on Wednesday ordered oil giant Shell to cut greenhouse gas emissions in a historic victory for climate activists with implications for energy companies around the world.

– Canary in the coal mine –

The fate of the Australian project – Whitehaven Coal’s Vickery Extension – has yet to be decided.

Judge Bromberg said he would reserve the orders “for further consideration” after the parties have consulted.

Australian high school students had hoped the case would set a precedent that would virtually rule out the construction of any new fossil fuel projects.

Although that decision failed, the legal battle is “not yet over,” according to Princi, who, along with the rest of the group, are activists in the “School Strike 4 Climate” movement inspired by Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg.

Thousands of Australians demonstrated in nationwide climate protests last week, with many schoolchildren skipping classes to express their anger over a massive new gas project and the government lagging behind the goals of emissions.

The vast island continent is one of the world’s largest producers of coal and natural gas, but has also suffered in recent years from droughts, floods and bushfires that exacerbate extreme climate change.

But Australia is under increasing international pressure to follow other developed economies and set a target date to become carbon neutral.

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