Gwydir Wetlands Case, Sydney, Australia

Youth protecting the Gwydir Wetlands from climate change impacts

Youth Climate Court Session

The Land and Environment Court / Youth Climate Court, Chief Judge Brian Preston presiding.
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

The issue before the court

Examination and evaluation of the performance of the Australian Federal and State governments and of the Murray Darling Basin Authority regarding their protection of the Gwydir Wetlands from adverse impacts of climate change. (more details)

Court date

December 15, 2020

Youth presenters

Ms Imogen Bryant
Ms Georgia Cam
Ms Geetanjali Ganguly
Mr Quintin Gravatt
Mr Benjamin Katzeff
Ms Jessica Pereira
Mr Leon Warren

Photos of youth presenters

photo 1
Left to right: Benjamin Katseff, Jessica Pereira, Imogen Bryant, Georgia Cam, Geetanjali Ganguly, Leon Warren and Quintin Gravatt

photo 2
Youth presenters with Chief Judge Brian Preston of the Land and Environment Court and YCC Facilitator, Dr Judith Preston

Transcripts of youth testimony

Ms Imogen Bryant
Ms Georgia Cam
Ms Geetanjali Ganguly
Mr Quintin Gravatt
Mr Benjamin Katzeff
Ms Jessica Pereira
Mr Leon Warren

Video-recordings of youth testimony

Youth presenters' evaluations of the Youth Climate Court process

• Ms Georgia Cam
This initiative helps solve a stigma that is prominent in younger generations - that we don't have a voice when it comes to recommending amendments to climate change governance and law. If youths are too young to vote, or don't feel like their vote is sufficient in having their opinions heard, they need to feel empowered to be able to effect change in other ways.

As climate change is an issue that is at the forefront of youth's minds, this tool encourages them to not only thoroughly research and educate themselves on certain areas of climate change governance and law that need improvement, but also teaches them how to advocate in a forum that can be very powerful.

Oral advocacy is a skill that can be used in so many different ways; it can be used to educate family members at home, to collaborate with students and teachers at school or in local communities, or to share opinions and recommendations in formal settings in the form of speeches or submissions. Learning how to use this skill to share opinions with accuracy and specificity and in a concise and respectful way is indispensable for youths wanting to effect change in the area of law and governance, and this initiative is a fantastic way to learn all of those facets of effective oral advocacy.

In order to promote this initiative to youths, I feel the most effective platform will be Facebook. A post can be created with a short video demonstrating the process and how this initiative can effect change in governance and law. This post can be shared to various groups and pages on Facebook that are dedicated to youth climate action. A competition could even be run for the best video created using this tool and the winner could be chosen by all of the entrants.

• Ms Jessica Pereira
I definitely think this is a useful tool in effecting climate change governance and law. I believe it will give young people a more legitimate platform to have their voices heard and will encourage more substantial and targeted research, as opposed to a general view on the topic. For example, (not to diminish the effectiveness of public assembly), but such a forum could incite real change, as opposed to a protest or other advocacy gathering.

It also presents an opportunity to combat the issue with reference to hard and soft law, in addition to science and other statistics. As I am not a STEM minded person myself, I sometimes feel that the climate argument can be a bit disengaging, and it can be hard to keep up with all of the innovations in the field. I think the Court's process of debating where stakeholders are/are not meeting their legal obligations can be better comprehended. I think it also provides young people with the opportunity to research and respectfully debate on a topic. With so much debate/denial in this space, this is obviously a valuable skill.

The only limitation I see is the implementation of the actual submissions. The process is obviously heavily reliant on the action and finding of the Judge, but then again, so is the whole legal process. I just hope that Judges will take this seriously and offer young people the same respect that Chief Justice Preston gave to us. Often, the advocacy passions of young people are overlooked, but I trust that this initiative will be celebrated by the judicial community.

In terms of promotion, I definitely think that if all of us share on our personal LinkedIn/Facebooks, etc. it would draw significant attention. I know that even by mentioning it to a few friends, they were all interested in participating. If such a post included a call to action, I think that would be more effective than a social media post that was more of an FYI. Are you looking to run another moot? What do you think this call to action should look like? Also, you could probably get in contact with MULS and run an article, or even the law school newsletter.

• Ms Geetanjali Ganguly
This YCC format provides a great platform to amplify youth voices on climate change and environmental issues.

My recommendation would be to find a way for such initiatives to become a sub-set of larger global climate change conferences (so for example, the UNFCCC COPs as well as the Davos economic forum etc.). This could be done through civil society leadership in these areas by NGOs like Our Children’s Trust, which is coordinating youth-driven climate litigation around the world.

In terms of academic efforts, many leading environmental law academics also participate at international climate conferences, so could do more to lobby for the inclusion of youth stakeholders and foster greater youth participation at such events going forward. This would operationalise and give more enforcement teeth to the concept of intergenerational equity.

• Mr Leon Warren
I thought the YCC was effective as it provided a forum for young people to express and argue their views in a way which ensured that those views were heard and taken seriously – particularly given that the moot was conducted in a courtroom and heard by the Chief Judge (of the oldest specialised environmental court in the world!).  Issues were addressed holistically by virtue of the fact that a variety of stakeholders were represented. Maybe one suggestion would be to also include a representative for future generations in the next iteration of the YCC? I also thought that the format (and forum) encouraged a greater depth of research and preparation.

 Perhaps one way the tool could be promoted would be through including a variety of images/snippets from the moot (almost like a highlights reel) on the YCC website or similar.  That way the link to the website could be easily shared/distributed on various social media platforms without each person having to upload the images/videos individually.  The content might also be more easily shared if a blurb accompanied any photos or videos (as this would reduce the need for the sharer to explain exactly what is going on).