The ACF's research report presents a series of recommendations aimed at the Australian government. Foremost among these is the proposal to enshrine the right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment in a standalone federal human rights act. This recommendation is bolstered by calls for integrating children's rights into national environmental law, emphasising intergenerational equity, and introducing enforceable environmental standards.
The report also advocates for an independent national EPA, a halt to land-clearing and native forest logging, maintaining the nuclear installation ban, and expanding public participation in environmental decision-making.
Kelly O’Shanassy, CEO of the ACF, highlights Australia's lag in global environmental governance, noting that “no Commonwealth, state or territory law expressly recognises the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment,” a right acknowledged in 161 other countries. This gap in legislative protection has spurred a movement of young Australians, who are actively voicing their demands for a safe and liveable future through street protests and legal actions.
Youth at the forefront
April Harrison's experience with the Black Saturday bushfires gives a personal and poignant dimension to these demands. Her perspective as a young Australian who has lived through environmental calamity underscores the urgency of the issue. She emphasises the importance of listening to and valuing the opinions and ideas of young people.
Echoing these sentiments, Mat Tinkler, CEO of Save the Children Australia, points out the disproportionate impact of climate change on children and the need for legal protections.
“As a major global emitter, Australia’s continued heavy reliance on coal, oil and gas comes at the cost of protecting the lives and wellbeing of children and future generations … Protecting the environmental rights and health of children should be enshrined in law to make sure our country is a place for children to flourish for many generations to come,” says Tinkler.
The research and its accompanying demands will be formally presented in Canberra by the ACF, Save the Children, the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, and Senator David Pocock. This event symbolises a united front of diverse groups and individuals, all advocating for the legal recognition of the right to a healthy environment, a fundamental step towards safeguarding the future of the planet and its youngest inhabitants.