Group of islanders complain to U.N. over Australia’s climate change inaction

Vastavam web: A group of islanders off Australia’s north coast are set to file a human rights complaint to the United Nations against the Australian government on Monday over inaction on climate change, which they say is threatening their homes, their lawyers said.

The complaint by eight Torres Strait Islanders marks the first climate change litigation brought against Australia based on human rights, said ClientEarth, the UK-based law firm handling the complaint.

“We’re currently seeing the effects of climate change on our islands daily, with rising seas, tidal surges, coastal erosion and inundation of our communities,” said Kabay Tamu, one of the eight islanders bringing the case.

The claimants, backed by U.S. environmental group 350.org, also launched a petition highlighting they want the Australian government to commit at least A$20 million ($14 million) for measures such as seawalls to shield the islands from rising sea levels.

“Australia’s continued failure to build infrastructure to protect the islands, and to take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, constitutes a clear violation of the islanders’ rights to culture, family and life,” Sophie Marjanac, the lead lawyer on the complaint, said in a statement.

At the same time the islanders want thermal coal to be phased out in domestic power generation and for export. Thermal coal is Australia’s fourth-biggest resources export.

The complaint is the latest in a string of climate change cases worldwide targeting companies and governments, which lawyers expect will proliferate. “I think that probably these types of actions will fail initially,” said Andrew Korbel, a partner at law firm Corrs Chambers Westgarth.

The U.N. Human Rights Committee has previously raised concerns about Australia’s record on issues such as its treatment of asylum seekers and indigenous people, but with little response.