Two Queensland teenagers are fighting to save a world-heritage-listed site, which they fear could be destroyed if a massive coal mine is allowed to go ahead.
Having grown up snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef, Cairns resident Claire Galvin fears that emissions resulting from mining company Adani’s Carmichael project could see the marine park further degraded.
She worries future generations may not enjoy the same Reef she has experienced while diving.
“All of the fish and coral were different colours,” Ms Galvin said.
“It was just the most vibrant and beautiful thing I'd ever seen.”
Young people anxious as climate change affects their homes
At just 19 years old, Ms Galvin concedes she was not born early enough to see the reef at its best - before the coral bleaching began.
“Action should have happened yesterday,” she told Yahoo New Australia.
“We are heading toward really severe climate change if we don’t act now, and intrinsic to that is stopping any new coal or gas projects.”
Ms Galvin has joined forces with 17-year-old Brooklyn O’Hearn from Townsville, who she met during school climate strikes, and written to the Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley, pleading with her to stop the mine from going ahead.
The pair first issued a letter to the minister last October, but other than receiving confirmation that the letter had been received, they are yet to see a response.
Feeling anxious about their future, and seeing their towns battle extreme weather, they decided to write again.
“We can see that our government is currently approving more coal mines rather than taking action on climate change,” Ms O’Hearn said.
“We can only ask that they prioritise our futures and take action before it’s too late.”
Great Barrier Reef 'in danger' warns UNESCO
The Environment Department confirmed with Yahoo News Australia that the young women’s correspondence is currently being assessed.
In the months since first letter was sent, the reef has continued to decline.
UNESCO issued a draft recommendation last month suggesting that the reef should be listed as “in danger”, citing concerns about climate change, however the federal government responded, saying they were “blindsided” by the statement.
Adani brands letter a 'media stunt'
Despite Ms Galvin and Ms O’Hearn putting their names to the letter, Adani, now known as Bravus, have dismissed it as a stunt from Environmental Justice Australia, the lawyers representing the Queensland teenagers.
Characterising EJA as an “anti-fossil fuel activism group”, they said the not-for-profit have been attempting to discredit them in the courts since 2017.
Striking back, they said the letter is "misguided and based on false and misleading information".
In a three-page-statement sent to Yahoo News Australia, they called the EJA letter a “media stunt” intended to “drum up media coverage” and said their mine will not impact the Reef.
“The process of mining 10 million tonnes of coal per annum at the Carmichael mine will produce 240,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions,” a Bravus spokesperson said.
“Bravus’ Carmichael mine is smaller than many others in Queensland and when the coal is used overseas the amount of carbon dioxide that will be produced will represent less than 0.04% of Australia’s emissions and less than 0.0006% of global emissions, which is not enough to have an impact on the Great Barrier Reef.”
Addressing the issue of climate change, Bravus highlighted that their parent company has acquired assets to make it the world’s largest solar power company.
“The climate challenge is one that we must all collectively address across the globe," they said.
Lawyers say opposition to Adani mine 'widespread'
EJA Senior Climate Specialist Lawyer Hollie Kerwin told Yahoo News Australia that evidence cited in the letter provided to Minister Ley on behalf of their clients has been written by "three eminent, internationally recognised, climate and economic experts".
She said EJA are "proud" to represent Ms Galvin and Ms O’Hearn and that opposition to Bravus' mine is now "widespread".
"Adani may be uncomfortable with the stark realities the three independent expert reports, Australia’s Federal Court and UNESCO’s committee have all identified," Ms Kerwin said.
"Our clients and so many farmers, children, families and scientists are certainly deeply concerned about the reality facing the Great Barrier Reef, because of Adani’s mine.
"But, the time to bury our heads in the sand and pretend it’s not happening has well and truly passed."
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