The conservative Tony Abbott government in Australia is proposing alarming changes to the country's Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999 -- a remarkable move that would prevent environment groups from challenging many damaging development projects.
This has all come to a head over the Carmichael Coal Mine -- a plan to build a massive mine in central Queensland in order to export 60 million of tons of coal to India each year.
Coal, of course, is the dirtiest of all fossil fuels, and India's plan to burn it by the shipload for electricity is bad news for the planet.
The Abbott government is in a tizzy after after a community organization, the Mackay Conservation Group, challenged the approval of the Carmichael Mine in Australia's Federal Court.
The community group says Environment Minister Greg Hunt didn’t properly consider the impact the mine would have on two threatened species, the yakka skink and ornamental snake.
The mine site also sustains the largest population of the southern subspecies of the Black-throated Finch, which is endangered.
The implications of the mega-mine go well beyond a few imperiled species. If the mine goes ahead, it will be one of the biggest in the world -- and the emissions from burning its mountains of coal would cancel out all gains made from Australia’s current emissions-reduction strategy.
On top of the frightening precedent it would set, the Abbott government appears to be double-dealing.
There was an agreement among the Environment Minister, the mine's proponent (the Adani Group from India), and the Mackay Conservation Group that the mine's approval should be set aside temporarily, until the conservation issues could be properly considered by the Minister. The parties agreed that the decision would be reconsidered in six to eight weeks.
But the federal government responded by attacking environmental groups opposed to the mine, calling them “vigilantes”.
And now, the government wants to wipe out the right of environmental groups to challenge decisions that violate the EPBC law -- despite the fact that less than 0.4% of all resource-development projects have been halted under the EPBC Act.
All this comes amid increasing calls by Australia's neighboring nations for a moratorium on new coal mines to prevent dangerous climate change.
The mine continues to attract heated controversy. Building it would require a major upgrade to existing port facilities on the Queensland coast and could have negative impacts on critical wetlands, culturally important indigenous lands, and even the Great Barrier Reef.
And despite all the fuss, many believe that the mine won't even be financially viable in the long term because of declining coal prices and India's pledge to halt coal imports in the next few years.
This isn't the first time the Abbott government has attacked environmental groups, and it may not be the last. It's time to turn up the heat on the coal-loving Abbott government -- by signing this petition -- before it makes the world hotter for all of the rest of us.