Submission: Climate Change (Net Zero Future) Bill 2023 (NSW)
ALHR made a submission to NSW’s Portfolio Committee No. 7 – Planning and Environment, providing feedback on the Climate Change (Net Zero Future) Bill 2023 (NSW) (“the Bill”). Our submission was solely directed towards the Bill’s inclusion of the human right to a healthy environment as a guiding principle, and does not otherwise comment on the Bill.
ALHR commends NSW for enshrining the human right to a healthy environment in alignment with Victoria and the ACT. Victoria recognises the human right to a healthy environment pursuant to the principle of equity set out in s 21 of the Environment Protection Act 2017 (Vic). The ACT has gone a step further and introduced on 26 October 2023 a bill to recognise the human right to a healthy environment as a standalone human right under the Human Rights Act 2004 (ACT).
However, we encourage the Committee to consider opportunities to strengthen the Bill to ensure that the human right to a healthy environment is not just recognised within the Bill, but protected within broader environmental and planning, and climate laws in NSW. We support and endorse the following recommendations set out by the Environmental Defenders Office and Law Society of NSW:
- the call for the Bill to impose “specific obligations” upon government agencies and decision-makers to have regard to, and act consistently with, the guiding principles in the Bill when exercising their powers and functions to administer environmental and planning, and climate law in NSW (see the submissions of the Law Society of NSW (page 3) and the Environmental Defenders Office (page 8)); and
- to amend the Bill so that independent bodies, including the Independent Planning Commission, are required to have regard to, and act consistently with, the guiding principles in the Bill when making decisions in respect of fossil fuel extraction projects (see the submission of the Environmental Defenders Office (page 4)).
Ensuring substantive protection and enforcement of the human right to a healthy environment is entirely consistent with domestic, regional and international instruments that have contributed to the progressive development of the right as a norm of international law. In particular, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment has set out the procedural and substantive aspects of the human right to a healthy environment including access to remedies for breach of the right and the obligations upon governments to ensure there is equal access and non-discrimination in the protection and promotion of the human right to a healthy environment.
ALHR also calls upon NSW to build upon this Bill and legislate a human rights act in NSW, to set out a charter for the recognition and enforcement of the fundamental human rights of the people of NSW, including the recognition of a standalone and enforceable human right to a healthy environment. We emphasise that such legislation will achieve stronger protection of human rights for everyone in NSW, having our human rights set out in law will lead to a fairer society and ensure the dignity, equality and respect for all within the community.