Student files first climate change lawsuit against Australia | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, July 23, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:10 AM, July 23, 2020

Student files first climate change lawsuit against Australia

A 23-year-old student has filed a lawsuit against Australia's government alleging it has failed to disclose climate change-related risks to investors in the country's sovereign bonds, in the first such action.

According to the litigation filed yesterday, Kathleen O'Donnell claims investors who buy Australian government bonds should be made aware of the risks due to climate change that might make it difficult for Australia to pay back its debt.

A spokeswoman for Australia's Treasurer told Reuters the government was aware of the lawsuit.

"Legal representatives are considering the matter. As it concerns current court proceedings the government will not make any comment," the spokeswoman said.

The litigation comes amid a global call for a "green" recovery in the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic and as many large investment managers pledge their commitment for net zero carbon emissions by 2050 across their entire portfolio.

Climate change has long been a hot button issue in Australia, becoming even more so since last summer when intense wildfires raged for about four months across large parts of the country, killing 33 people and millions of animals.

"Australia is materially exposed and susceptible" to climate change risks, according to the statement filed with the Federal Court of Australia in Victoria state.

O'Donnell is seeking declaration that the government breached its duty of disclosure and an injunction restraining further promotion of e-AGBs until it complies.

Australia has more than A$600 billion ($428 billion) of sovereign bonds on issue, enjoying a coveted 'AAA' rating from all three major ratings agencies.

The country contributes only 1.3% of the world's carbon emissions but is the second-largest emitter per capita behind the United States and is a leading exporter of coal.

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