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Torres Strait Islanders sue federal government for failing to protect their land from rising sea levels

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The plaintiffs say that with the rise of the ocean it will flood and destroy their irreplaceable cultural heritage and holy places. This includes burial sites, sites containing human remains, and sites that have a spiritual significance similar to the Christian concept of paradise, the court will be told.

Less than a week before the start of the crucial COP climate summit in Glasgow, Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Tuesday unveiled the government’s plan to reach zero emissions by 2050 and updated the Australia 2030 projection to cut emissions by 30 per cent. at 35 percent. cent. The plan has been criticized for lacking details on how those cuts will be achieved.

Low Boigu Island from the air.

Low Boigu Island from the air.

This historic climate action in the Torres Strait is modeled after model one of the most successful cases of global climate in history, in which the Urgenda Foundation supported 886 people to file a case in 2015 against the Dutch government.

A Dutch District Court ordered the government to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25 percent by the end of 2020 (from 1990 levels). This led to the rapid closure of coal-fired power plants and billions of euros in investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Urgenda has helped develop the Torres Strait issue and will continue to provide strategic advice.

Mr. Kabai and Mr. The Pabai are seeking an order from the Federal Court asking the federal government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prevent flooding of islands in the Torres Strait.

Pabai Pabai and Paul Kabai watching the sea near the sea wall in Boigu.

Pabai Pabai and Paul Kabai watching the sea near the sea wall in Boigu.

If you take us away from this island, then it would be nothing. It is like a stolen belt, you drive people away from their tribal land, they become nobody, Mr. Pabai said.

The two men follow in the footsteps of their compatriot Eddie Koiki Mabo, a Meriam man from the island of Mer, whose successful judicial action against the federal government overturned the terra nullius doctrine.

Mr. Pabai has seven children, has always lived in Boigu and leads the body representing the six clans on the island.

It is very important that we talk to people from all over Australia, that our story unfolds to the wider world, that people see what we are facing, he said.

A sea wall has been built in Boigu in an effort to reduce flooding, but residents say it does not always work.

A sea wall has been built in Boigu in an effort to reduce flooding, but residents say it does not always work.

Similarly Mr. Kabai, who has six children, has always lived in Saibai and leads the body representing the seven clans on the island. He said he was taking action for the future of his children and their children.

Specialized law firm Phi Finney McDonald is conducting litigation on behalf of the two men, with the support of Promoting AND Grata Fund, an organization of public interest that supports marginalized people to protect their legal rights.

Attorney Brett Spiegel said his clients were acting on behalf of all Torres Strait Islander residents.

At the time, many people did not think Mabo’s case would succeed, and here we are, Mr Spiegel said.

Cemeteries on the islands have been flooded before and plants have spoken of their fear of moving their ancestors.

Cemeteries on the islands have been flooded before and plants have spoken of their fear of moving their ancestors.

The Torres Strait Islander case differs from the latest group lawsuit filed on behalf of Australian children against Environment Minister Sussan Ley. That group action was linked to a single decision, Spiegel said, as the Kabai and Mr Pabais cases seek to test the Commonwealth’s broader duty of care to the islands of the Torres Strait.

Grata Fund founder and CEO Isabelle Reinecke said the two men had a strong case that they hoped would write history.

Forcing them to leave their land, country and culture due to government inaction would form another shocking chapter in Australia’s oppression of the peoples of the First Nations, Ms Reinecke said.

The federal government declined to comment.

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Sources

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2/ https://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/torres-strait-leaders-sue-federal-government-over-climate-change-20211025-p592zo.html

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