Environmental Justice


Write a report for an environmental justice organisation that assesses the strengths and weaknesses of a recent or upcoming environmental decision or plan using environmental justice concepts, principles and/or frameworks. Structure Your report should be no longer than 2500 words and provide a clear introduction and assessment of the plan or decision from an environmental justice perspective. The report should end with recommendations for improvements. There is no set structure to the report however the following suggestion will ensure you cover the main issues: i. Introduction a. Plan / decision / context and key issues arising ii. Key human and non-human actors involved a. Systems map detailing key human and non-human actors and their relations iii. Environmental justice issues a. Summary of any distributive justice issues b. Summary of any procedural justice issues c. Summary of any issues of recognition d. Summary of other environmental justice concepts or considerations iv. Assessment was this an environmentally just process? a. Recommendations for improvements v. References vi. Appendix (listing social media / websites / news media etc consulted) Suggested process 1. Early in semester you will be encouraged to select the case study you will analyse. 2. You will also be encouraged to collate a database of relevant information from news media, social media, company and civil society websites, media releases and any other relevant sources. This secondary data is essential in enabling you to assess the environmental justice elements of the decision – as some perspectives and voices may be omitted from official documents. You will also gain insights into power relations, tactics and strategies. 3. Some of the online and in-class tutorials as well as lectures will scaffold knowledge and skills directly related to this assignment. During semester you should make notes about how weekly themes relate to your case study. On occasion you may be asked to discuss these connections in class or in tutorial discussions. 4. A good starting point when you are ready to write the assignment will be the production of a systems map that identifies both the key actors identified in the official documents and those that you have identified from your unofficial database. This will help you identify who or what may be experiencing particular forms of injustice if they exist. 5. Start collating information and writing early, and ensure you are writing to the rubric. Selecting a case study You are welcome to choose an environmental decision or plan that most interests you. BPlan students are strongly encouraged to analyse recent or upcoming planning decisions (e.g. https://www.planningportal.nsw.gov.au/major-projects/projects/on-exhibition). It may be: • a major development proposal, • a major land use plan, • a major natural resource management plan, • a risk management strategy for a major issue, • development of policy for a sector, Some topic areas include: water management in the Murray-Darling Basin, Australian climate policy, Sydney’s desalinisation plant, brumbies in Kosciuszko national park, Adani and other coal mine proposals, raising the Warragamba Dam levels, water mining, deforestation and land clearance in NSW, urban development, solar farms, waste disposal, coal seam gas, nuclear waste dumps, plastic bag bans, marine parks, Yarra Bay passenger terminal, hazard reduction burning, etc. See the GEOP3000 useful websites document as a starting point for identifying a suitable decision or plan. You are also encouraged to visit the Environmental Justice Atlas which is another excellent resource for this project: https://ejatlas.org/ Environmental justice theories and frameworks You are welcome to draw on any aspect of environmental justice theories and approaches as the focus for your research paper. The readings on Leganto provide useful starting points for thinking about environmental justice. In your research paper you are welcome to include these readings but should also read further afield. Some students may find the Social Justice Framework by Anna Lukasiewicz a useful tool to analyse environmental justice issues. Lukasiewicz, A. 2017 The Social Justice Framework: untangling the maze of justice complexities. In Lukasiewicz, A., Dovers, S., Robin, L., McKay, J., Schilizzi, S., Graham, S. (eds) Natural Resources and Environmental Justice: Australian Perspectives. CSIRO, Clayton South, pp. 233-250. Sample essay This essay explores the decision-making processes around Adani’s proposed Carmichael coalmine. In 2010, Indian mining conglomerate Adani lodged a 16.5 billion dollar proposal for the construction and operation of six open-cut pits and five underground coalmines in Queensland’s Galilee Basin (Fig. 1), a 388km long railway line and the expansion of the Abbot Point coal terminal (De Gabriele et al., 2019). After being unable to secure finance for the proposal, Adani scaled back the size of the project to two billion dollars (De Gabriele et al., 2019). However, it is unclear as to the extent of the changes, as many the major decisions regarding the Carmichael coalmine continue to reference the original proposal. Figure 1 The location of the proposed mine site (Image source: Hannam, 2019). 1 Ben Radford Sample environmental justice essay from 2019 GEOP300 This essay will explore the political context of the Carmichael coalmine by identifying stakeholders and the tactics used to influence decision-making in regard to the project. Secondly, the essay will determine to what extent different stakeholders were recognised or included in major decisions regarding the project. Thirdly, the quality of decision-making will be assessed, using Lukasiewicz’s (2017) Social Justice Framework, and employing a systems perspective to costs and benefits will potentially be distributed. Finally, the essay will propose some practical recommendations for moving towards more environmentally just decision-making approaches in Australia. Political context: stakeholders and their interests In such a large-scale and contentious proposal, there many different stakeholders with conflicting interests. The Carmichael coalmine project continues to be a divisive and controversial project, and has attracted over a dozen legal challenges since its proposal in 2010 (Robertson, 2019, Salama and White, 2017). There are different ways that the Queensland and Federal government ensured the ease of which the Carmichael coalmine could be approved through legislative frameworks. For example, in late 2016, the Queensland government Minister for State Development officially granted the Carmichael coalmine, and the associated water and rail infrastructure, status as ‘critical infrastructure’, after a request from Adani (Howlett and Lawrence, 2019). This aimed to allow the project to attain the required approvals more rapidly, while simultaneously diminishing legal powers to review and determine the lawfulness of decision-making (Howlett and Lawrence, 2019). The Adani corporation is obviously a key stakeholder in the project, and wants the mine to be approved as soon as possible. Arnautovic (2017, p.19) argues that the actions of Adani are typical of large mining companies which aim to influence Queensland and federal governments, in its use of lobbying tactics such as “monetary donations, personal gifts, private meetings and the strategic hiring of 2 Ben Radford Sample environmental justice essay from 2019 GEOP300 several former government executives of Queensland”. These tactics aimed to influence the processes of approval for the Carmichael coalmine in a manner favourable for Adani’s interests. Another significant group of stakeholders are environmental non-governmental organisations (NGOs), including the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), Climate Council, Greenpeace and Mackay Conservation Group. The ACF and Mackay Conservation Group both launched legal challenges and public media campaigns in an attempt to overturn the decision to approve the Carmichael coalmine (Konkes, 2018, Schuijers, 2017). Given the causal link between burning coal and global climate change (IPCC, 2014), it could be argued that any individual is a stakeholder in a decision regarding the approval of a coalmine. This is evident in the mobilisation of large numbers of people in the ‘#StopAdani’ movement, the majority of which probably do not live within close proximity to the proposed mine site, but recognise the contribution of coalmines to climate change. Local Indigenous stakeholders, the Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) people, currently have a pending native title claim to the land on which the proposed Carmichael coalmine is planned (Howlett and Lawrence, 2019). The majority of W&J stakeholders are in opposition to the mine (Arnautovic, 2017). In an attempt to influence the decision, W&J engaged with representatives from Adani on numerous occasions in order to have their views and wishes heard. Following the subsequent Federal approval of the Carmichael coalmine, W&J launched a legal challenge in the Federal Court in an attempt to overturn the decision (Howlett and Lawrence, 2019). There are numerous non-human stakeholders that will be directly and indirectly impacted by decisions regarding the Carmichael coalmine, from individual species such as the Black-Throated Finch (BTF), Yakka Skink and Ornamental Snake, to ecosystems such as the Great Barrier Reef and Doongmabulla Springs (Grech et al., 2016, Konkes, 2018, Reside et al., 2019). 3 Ben Radford Sample environmental justice essay from 2019 GEOP300 Analysis of decision-making in regard to the Carmichael coalmine Environmental Impact Statements (EISs) are one of the decision-making tools used by the State and Federal governments in the determination of the original Carmichael coalmine approval. Theoretically, EISs require assessment and ongoing reporting of the cumulative impacts of coalmining projects. However, Grech et al. (2016, p.202) argue that, in practice, “EISs report only the direct, local impacts of mining operations, and they do not consider the indirect impacts of the mines at a broader spatial or temporal scale.” In the case of the Carmichael mine, the EIS did not consider impacts on the Great Barrier Reef from activities such as the expansion of the Abbot Point coal port or increases in the number of ships traversing the Reef, as well as broader issues such as greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) from the burning of exported coal (Grech et al., 2016). Due to the pending Native Title claim from W&J Traditional Owners on the land proposed for the Carmichael coalmine site, it was a requirement under the Native Title Act that they were involved in the decision-making process (Sadler and Gupta, 2019). However, after the breakdown of negotiations between W&J people and Adani, W&J stakeholders were pressured to either accept Adani’s proposal or have their land taken off them by the Queensland government (Arnautovic, 2017). In 2016, the Queensland government granted Adani three mining leases without W&J people’s consent (Howlett and Lawrence, 2019). Arnautovic (2017, p.62) argues that the decision-making in the case of the Adani Carmichael mine is one example of how “state institutions and government in relation to mining development projects commonly bends in favour of mining interests over Indigenous interests.” Howlett and Lawrence (2019, p.833) take this further, arguing that “…the Queensland government and capitalist interests were, in overt collusion to dispossess Aboriginal people of their rights and their traditional lands, in the name of capitalist accumulation”. Essentially, decisions were made about the Carmichael coalmine by Adani, the Queensland government and the Federal government, without consent from, or meaningful negotiation with, W&J Traditional Owners. 4 Ben Radford Sample environmental justice essay from 2019 GEOP300 Quality of decision-making: An environmental justice perspective Lukasiewicz (2017, p.241) identifies “process rules”, or principles, that should be incorporated in decision-making to ensure environmental justice. These include consistency, impartiality, accuracy, error correctability, ethicality, transparency, accountability, timeliness and accessibility. The following will briefly explore decision- making in regard to the mine, and to what extent some justice principles were incorporated. Consistency in decision-making refers to decisions that are uniform across jurisdictions (Lukasiewicz, 2017). The Federal government approved extensive land clearing of BTF habitat for the construction of the Carmichael coalmine (De Gabriele et al., 2019). However, on 2nd May 2019, the Queensland government stated that Adani’s BTF management plan does not satisfy environmental conditions (De Gabriele et al., 2019). It is clear that there has been inconsistency in aspects of decision-making in regard to the Carmichael coalmine, as has been revealed by conflicting State and Federal government actions. Lukasiewicz (2017, p.242) argues accuracy in decision-making means “Decisions are to be made on the basis of best available science.” Several decisions made in regard to the approval process of the Carmichael coalmine were clearly not informed by ‘best available’ science, in particular the Federal government’s approval of Adani’s groundwater management plans. In 2017, Adani was granted a sixty-year lease to extract unlimited amounts of water from the Great Artesian Basin (Reddy and Rosencranz, 2018). This raises concerns over the potential impact on groundwater flows and in particular the nearby nationally significant ecosystem of Doongmabulla Springs (Reddy and Rosencranz, 2018). Currell et al. (2017, p.674) argue that “critical scientific data…[was] lacking at the time of approval”. A review by the CSIRO and Geoscience Australia asserts that there were major flaws in the modelling used by Adani to predict the impact of mining activities on groundwater levels and flows (CSIRO and Geoscience Australia, 2019). Despite this, in April 2019, Federal approval was given to Adani’s Groundwater Dependent Ecosystem 5 Ben Radford Sample environmental justice essay from 2019 GEOP300 Management Plan, and Groundwater Management and Monitoring Plan (Slezak, 2019). Ethicality refers to the alignment of decisions with fundamental ethical and moral values (Lukasiewicz, 2017). The willingness of the Federal and Queensland government to extinguish Native Title claims in order to facilitate the operation of the Carmichael coalmine, raises serious concerns about the ethicality of decision- making in regard to the project (Birch, 2018, Howlett and Lawrence, 2019). The decision to attempt to erase Native Title claims of the W&J people constitutes a violation of Indigenous rights to their land, and has been condemned by the United Nations (Sadler and Gupta, 2019). Accessibility refers to stakeholders, particularly typically marginalised groups, having access to decision-makers, and being able to participate in decision-making (Lukasiewicz, 2017). Aulby and Ogge (2016, p.2) point to the “extraordinary level of political access enjoyed by companies such as Adani” to the Queensland government, which occurs before and during the decision-making process. Between January 2013 and November 2014 alone, there were 12 meetings between senior Queensland government figures (e.g. Minister for Environment, Deputy Premier, Premier etc.) and Adani representatives in regard to the Carmichael coalmine (Aulby and Ogge, 2016). Contrastingly, marginalised groups such as the W&J people, were not given this same level of access to decision-makers within the Queensland government (Arnautovic, 2017, Wood et al., 2018). Ultimately, many of the aforementioned principles were absent from the decision- making process of the Carmichael coalmine, such as transparency, accountability, impartiality and error correctability. There were significant inconsistencies between the decision-making of the Queensland and federal government. There have been notable examples of procedural and distributive injustice in the decision-making process by the Queensland state government and Federal government. 6 Ben Radford Sample environmental justice essay from 2019 GEOP300 The Carmichael coalmine must not only be considered in the context of the potential impacts on the immediate socioecological systems, but in the context of national and global impacts. The mine constitutes a commitment to contribute to global greenhouse gas emissions, and hence climate change, at a time when rapid action is required to address climate change. There is a broad consensus that the impacts of climate change (e.g. sea level rise, increased frequency and severity of extreme weather events), are expected to escalate in the future (IPCC, 2014). Despite this, Schuijers (2017, p.66) argues “Climate change is not relevant in a general sense to Australian environmental decision-making at the federal level, regardless of how significant the climate change impacts of a major project may be.” Given the prominence of climate change as a significant environmental justice issue, its lack of consideration in the Carmichael coalmine decision-making process, as well as in a wider Australian context, highlights the environmentally unjust nature of the decisions made in regard to the Carmichael coalmine. The distribution of benefits from the Carmichael coalmine, if it is given final approval, will potentially be an example of distributive injustice. Considering that most mineral resources in Australia are owned by transnational corporations, rather than local communities, the majority of the economic benefits created by mining are received by these corporations (Arnautovic, 2017). The Carmichael coalmine is no exception, as it is owned by Indian-based company Adani (Slattery, 2019). Thus, support of the Carmichael coalmine by the state and federal governments represents a decision to further the distributional injustice of economic flows to corporations, at the expense of benefits to local communities. State governments usually receive royalty payments from mining resources extracted in their state, however, in the case of the Carmichael mine, these royalty payments were deferred by the Queensland government (Wood et al., 2018). However, the Queensland government has received significant political donations from Adani and their associated lobby groups, and it stands to reason that this will continue (Aulby and Ogge, 2016). The limited number of jobs created, combined with the lack of short-to-longer term job prospects due to the planned automation of the mine (both admitted by Adani), informs the reasonable assertion that the Carmichael coalmine would provide little economic 7 Ben Radford Sample environmental justice essay from 2019 GEOP300 benefits to the region, especially compared to the potential costs (Steffen et al., 2017). In contrast, the costs of the Carmichael mine will most likely prove severe for the local area. There are concerns that groundwater extraction for mining activities will potentially lead to irreversible changes in water levels, and put at risk unique ecological habitats such as the nearby Doongmabulla Springs (CSIRO and Geoscience Australia, 2019, Currell et al., 2017). Nearby communities’ reliance on groundwater for household consumption and agriculture may also be threatened (De Gabriele et al., 2019). The clearing of habitat for species such as the BTF, will most likely contribute to a decline of endangered species and biodiversity in general (Reside et al., 2019). From an environmental justice perspective, decision-making in regard to the Carmichael coalmine project has been largely driven by self-interest, resulting in various procedural injustices and potentially unjust outcomes for the majority of stakeholders. The decisions made have not been representative of the need and wishes of the majority of stakeholders, both human and non-human. This highlights the need for a more just environmental decision-making approach in Australia. Where to now? Towards environmentally just decision-making in Australia Given the current level of political influence and corruption that occurs during environmental decision-making processes in Australia, it is unlikely that just decision- making will eventuate without action to address the considerable influence of mining corporations (Aulby and Ogge, 2016). The high level of political interference in Australian politics results in environmental decision-making that privileges the interests of a select few, while disregarding the needs of many human and non- human stakeholders. Practical recommendations to combat the high level of political interference by wealthy individuals and corporations, such as Adani, could include banning political donations, publishing the diaries of government ministers and prohibiting the current movement of individuals between positions in government to mining companies and lobbying firms, and vice versa (Aulby and Ogge, 2016). 8 Ben Radford Sample environmental justice essay from 2019 GEOP300 Even if political interference was to be removed from environmental decision-making processes, this does not necessarily guarantee just decision-making, but it can be argued that it is a prerequisite for it. In Australia, “there is currently no conceptual framework to address environmental justices, and therefore no policy response to these issues.” (Environment Defenders Office, 2012, p.11). This highlights the need for an environmental justice framework to be incorporated into environmental decision-making at all levels of government. This could be similar to the Social Justice Framework proposed by Lukasiewicz (2017). The establishment of community decision-making bodies which are granted authority to make decisions regarding projects that affect the community could be a more just approach, rather than relying on tokenistic community consultation (EDO, 2012). Lefroy and Richardson (2015) argue that environmental laws in Australia favour development over the protection of the environment. Australia’s political and legal system allows mining corporations to lobby government and make legal challenges against decisions that did not favour them, which generally result in favourable outcomes for them (Lefroy and Richardson, 2015). Despite the multitude of scientific evidence detailing the social, economic and environmental costs, and comparatively little economic benefits of the Carmichael coalmine (Howlett and Lawrence, 2019, Steffen et al., 2017), both the Queensland and Federal government remain committed to allowing the operation of the mine. Concerningly, all the questionable and negligent decision-making processes so far have been deemed lawful under the Australian judicial system (Salama and White, 2017). This highlights the need for legislative change to enshrine environmental justice principles in Australian law. Just environmental decision-making requires a systems thinking approach that assesses and monitors potential cumulative impacts of decisions that are not solely restricted to the immediate geographic and temporal context (Grech et al., 2016). Decision- makers must be responsible for assessing cumulative impacts of projects, and this could be reinforced by the establishment of an independent body, with legislative powers, to ensure adherence to justice principles (Grech et al., 2016). 9 Conclusions Ben Radford Sample environmental justice essay from 2019 GEOP300 Decision-making in the context of Adani’s Carmichael coalmine has not recognised or included the majority of stakeholders in the process. Drawing on Lukasiewicz’s Social Justice Framework and employing a systems perspective to assess how costs and benefits may potentially be distributed, indicates that decision-making approaches have, and will continue to, perpetrate environmental injustices. The potential social, environmental and economic costs as a result of the current path of decision-making to approve the Carmichael coalmine, will most likely be severe. This case study highlights the need for meaningful reforms and responses in order to attain more just environmental decision-making approaches in Australia. 10

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