Environmental impact, human rights and community well-being: ‘Rocky Hill’ coal mine decision

  • Courts are taking a wider perspective on the environmental impacts of developments under assessment.
  • Macroscopic impacts, which will affect humanity as a whole, are capable of justifying a decision to refuse consent to a single proposed project on the basis of its merits.
  • The decision recognises a notion of ‘communal well-being’ that is not necessarily intertwined with the pursuit of economic gain.

Hand holding leaf with factory cut out

Probably the most controversial and much discussed aspect of the recent court refusal of planning approval for the Rocky Hill coal mine is how the court supported its decision by drawing on international jurisprudence linking fossil fuels and climate change.

But, by refusing development consent on the basis of the mine’s likely contribution to climate change and adverse social impacts, the court also draws our attention to the increasing importance of human rights considerations in assessing the impact of major projects.

Proponents need to be cognisant of the link between climate change and human rights, particularly, when assessing the public interest criterion of project impacts.

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