Pressure from young people for Anthony Albanese to consider duty of care over climate harm

A teenage activist leading the call for governments to legislate a duty to consider the impacts of climate change says Labor can’t just rest on its laurels as she pushed for further action.

Anjali Sharma was a high school student when she led federal court action in 2021 against then-environment minister Sussan Ley that found she had a duty of care to protect young people from the climate crisis.

Ms Ley was successful in her appeal to the full federal court bench a year later.

Despite a change in government and the legislation of emission reduction targets, Ms Sharma says it’s time for Labor to do more.

“It is definitely an attitude among many government politicians that they have legislated X, Y and Z, so why do we need to do more,” she told NCA NewsWire on Thursday.

“We are really trying to meet them where they are at and change their attitude.

“You will hear no argument the government has acted on climate change.

“We hope the attitude that the government has done enough isn’t a blocker to getting legislative protection specifically for young people.”

A parliamentary hearing is currently weighing up the merits of laws that would make it a requirement to consider the health and wellbeing of young people when making decisions to facilitate or fund projects that could significantly increase greenhouse emissions.

In its submission, the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water said “the government has made significant progress” and was already “pursuing opportunities to embed Australia’s emissions reduction targets, and climate change considerations more broadly, into government decision-making”.

Senator David Pocock, who has proposed the legislation, said he’d received unprecedented support for the bill – except from the major parties.

“This just shows how out of touch they are with the reality of what is happening when it comes to our climate and just how urgent the need is,” he said.

Doctors for the Environment Australia’s Karen Kiang described the proposal as no different to Australia’s approach to the tobacco or gambling industries.

The inquiry received just under 400 submissions including from the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and Australian Medical Association who were broadly supportive of the push.

But the Australian Human Rights Commission said it should be expanded to “consider children’s rights as whole, not just their health and well being”.

Ms Sharma said she wasn’t going to let the perfect be the enemy of the good and was happy to see the proposal change in order to get the duty of care over the line.

“If the government wants to create their own policy that speaks to the needs of young people in the face of climate change, then we will be so happy to see that happen,” she said.

“It’s not our way or the highway.”

The committee will report back on March 1.

Read related topics:Anthony Albanese

Leave a Comment