ACT Independent Senator David Pocock will introduce the Climate Change Amendment (Duty of Care and Intergenerational Equity) Bill 2023 tomorrow, which would legislate a positive duty of care, creating a requirement for politicians and policy makers to consider the impact of climate harm on young people and future generations.
This is Senator Pocock’s first private senators’ bill, which he is introducing after working on a draft bill with lead litigant in the 2020 Federal Court case Sharma and others v. Minister for the Environment, Anjali Sharma. At the same time they are launching an accompanying grassroots community campaign to harness support for the change adutyofcare.com.
The bill would plug a dangerous gap in the legislative framework exposed by the case which highlighted the need to embed in legislation the principle that governments should care about the health and wellbeing of children.
It seeks to add two conditions to decisions made under six existing pieces of legislation relating to decisions that facilitate the financing and development of projects that may significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions, including the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
Senator Pocock said with the fast worsening impacts of climate change on Australia’s economic prosperity, environment, and our health and wellbeing, the cost of decisions today not to act, or to act slowly on climate change will be paid by young people and future generations. And the price will be high.
“It’s our duty as politicians and policy makers to make sure that the climate young people inherit is one they can live and thrive in,” Senator Pocock said.
“We should be thinking about young people when we make decisions. I want to be part of a parliament, and more importantly a country, that takes this responsibility seriously.
“Politicians and policy makers should have a duty of care to protect the health and wellbeing of young people and future generations.
“A growing number of young Australians and their families are demanding to have their voices heard and action taken to protect their future.
“Look at any news website or television report and the deadly impacts of climate change on communities and on Nature are clear to see.
“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.
“We need a legislative tool that can be used in government decision making, and this bill will deliver that.
“I look forward to my parliamentary colleagues giving serious consideration to this legislation and hopefully supporting it and the wellbeing of young people.”
Lead litigant and climate advocate Anjali Sharma said this bill is born out of years of advocacy by young people leading the charge for greater climate action.
“As a young person, I’m increasingly scared about my future. The past few years have seen climate disasters and temperatures that have broken records. The government can either act in accordance with its duty to young people and deliver us a safe and liveable future, or set us on a path to climate catastrophe.”
Canberra mum and ProACT co-founder Clare Doube said:
“As the mother of a 5 and 7 year old, I want real, tangible action now - not just for their future, but also for the 5 and 7 year olds in Tuvalu, Bangladesh, Greece and beyond. This is urgent - we can already see that if we don’t seriously act now, the future is catastrophic.”
Notes to editors:
The provisions of the Climate Change Amendment (Duty of Care and Intergenerational Equity) Bill 2023 would apply to decisions made under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation Act 1991, the Infrastructure Australia Act 2008, the National Reconstruction Fund Corporation Act 2023, the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility Act 2016, and the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006.
It imposes a statutory duty on decision-makers under those Acts:
- To consider the likely impact of decisions that could harm the climate on the health and wellbeing of current and future children as the paramount consideration; and
Not to make a decision that could harm the climate if the decision poses a material risk of harm to the health and wellbeing of current and future children in Australia.
It is not retrospective.
As required by Senate procedure, Senator Pocock will lodge a Notice of Motion on Monday 31 July 2023 giving notice of his intention to formally introduce the bill on Tuesday 1 August. Senator Pocock will then ask colleagues to refer the bill to the Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee for inquiry reporting back early in 2024.