NSW: Religious leaders call for reforms to the management of coal mining

coal-religion A number of religious groups and leaders have signed an open letter to the New South Wales Premier calling for reforms of how coal mining is managed in the state.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: While the Government wages what it calls lawfare on environmental groups trying to prevent coal developments, it’s facing opposition from a different front.

A number of religious groups and leaders have signed an open letter to the New South Wales Premier calling for reforms of how coal mining is managed in the state.

Spokespeople from the Catholic and Anglican churches say religious teachings around protecting people and the environment have compelled them to speak out.

They say another letter needs to be sent to the commonwealth calling for similar reforms.

Natalie Whiting reports.

NATALIE WHITING: Bishops, nuns and religious groups are among more than thirty signatories on an open letter to the New South Wales Premier Mike Baird.

Along with a range of community groups, including the Lock the Gate alliance, they’re calling for reforms to how coal mining is managed.

The letter calls for certain farming and environmental areas to be ruled “off limits”, and for regulation to minimise impacts on the environment, communities and water resources.

Anglican Bishop George Browning says he was driven to sign by both his personal beliefs and religious teachings.

GEORGE BROWNING: I think anybody of faith is a conserver of the natural order, and I’m one who believes that economy and environment are inextricably woven together, that anything that comes into the frame of human economy is ultimately derived from a healthy environment.

NATALIE WHITING: These sorts of developments are put through quite extensive processes and community consultation before they’re approved.

GEORGE BROWNING: Well they are, except that there is a tendency these days to put economic principles above principles that have to do with healthy environment, the social network of people, agriculture, etcetera.

Economy should serve society’s needs, not the other way around.

NATALIE WHITING: Jacqui Remond from Catholic Earthcare says she’s concerned the world’s poorest people will be the worst affected by climate change.

JACQUI REMOND: It’s very much based on Catholic social teachings, in terms of valuing the common good, and that principle means that the universal destination of good, all of God’s creation we see as a gift, and that we need to be very, very careful in how we make use of that gift in terms of how we share the gifts of the planet.

NATALIE WHITING: The Pope recently spoke out against climate change. How big of an impact has that had in regards to the campaigning against coal?

JACQUI REMOND: Look, I think Pope Francis’ message with his encyclical laudato si’ is a really critical message. We can no longer stall or pause in thinking about action, we actually need to act.

NATALIE WHITING: The Federal Government wants to repeal a section of Australia’s national environmental laws so that only people directly affected by a development would be allowed to challenge it.

Bishop Browning says he thinks another open letter needs to be sent to Industry Minister Ian McFarlane and the Federal Government.

GEORGE BROWNING: I think McFarlane’s comments are ill-advised and at the moment we need a fulsome debate about this, and to characterise the side of the argument that he doesn’t like as being opposed to economic development is entirely false.

NATALIE WHITING: The Coalition’s plan faces uncertainty in the Senate .



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