Submission: Climate Change Amendment (Duty of Care and Intergenerational Climate Equity) Bill 2023

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties has made a submission to the Duty of Care Bill (Climate Change Amendment - Duty of Care and Intergenerational Climate Equity Bill 2023) inquiry.

Australia’s climate change framework currently leaves the Commonwealth unable to properly manage the development of emissions intensive activities. We need decision makers to be compelled to consider the health and wellbeing of current and future children when determining what is acceptable.

We are making our submissions on this Bill on the same day as the “School Students 4 Climate Strike” and are proud to endorse and support the voices of young people on this issue. The Council supports this Bill, and we urge the Commonwealth Government to support it as well.

Comments from Lydia Shelly, President, NSW Council for Civil Liberties

Every single civil liberty and human right that we enjoy is contingent on the health of our environment and the sustainability of the planet.

We know that children, with their whole lives still ahead of them, and our unborn generations, will bear the brunt of the climate catastrophe that the current generation is exacerbating by a lack of action and a lack of political will.

Climate Change has disproportionate impacts on children. Kids are at higher risk of harms including the impacts of extreme weather and natural disasters, water scarcity and food insecurity, air pollution and vector-borne diseases and resulting psychological trauma.[1]

Children’s voices and the collective voices of young people deserve to be heard.  The Council has a long and proud history of standing up for the right to protest and we reaffirm that our support extends to the next generation of climate change activists.

We proudly endorse the “School Students 4 Climate Strike” and commend the young people who have organised the movement and, in many ways, have shown greater leadership on the issue of Climate Change than their elected representatives. Young people should be able to express their concerns about issues that directly impact them without the added strain of politicians and schools weighing in on their right to protest.

Children born over the last decade will be in their 30s by 2050.  They will be at the prime of their careers and many of them may have become parents by that stage.  They will also have parents who are in their 70’s and 80’s.  Their quality of life, prosperity and security are all hanging in balance based on the decisions we make today.

Australia is party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child [2] and has an obligation to take into account as a primary consideration the best interests of children in all administrative decisions.[3] This requires the carrying out of vigorous children’s rights impact assessments.[4]

We need action now, to ensure that future generations can escape the dire consequences that awaits them if we remain paralysed on Climate Change. 

Read our submission here.

[1] Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Analytical study on the relationship between climate change and the full and effective enjoyment of the rights of the child U.N Doc. A/HRC/35/13

(4 May 2017) [6].

[2]  opened for signature 20 November 1989, 1577 UNTS 3 (entry into force 2 September 1990).

[3] Convention on the Rights of the Child, opened for signature 20 November 1989, 1577 UNTS 3 (entry into force 2 September 1990) art 3.

[4] Committee on the rights of the child, General comment No. 26 (2023) on children’s rights and the environment, with a special focus on climate change, 93rd sess, U.N Doc. CRC/C/GC/26 (22 August 2023) [75].