A 23-year-old student is suing the Australian government for inaction on climate change

A 23-year-old student has noted that the Australian government’s silence on climate-change may be susceptible to a lawsuit.

Australia is full of climate change sceptics, but O’Donnell is clearly not one of them. She’s seemingly found a sound way to sue the Australian Government, using their own rulings against them.

climate change
Photo – Molly Townsend

23-year-old law student Kathleen O’Donnell is suing the Australian Government for not disclosing the risks of climate change in their government bonds.

Legal Representatives are “considering the matter” and, for now, the Government makes no comment. Not exactly great PR when a law student finds a way to hold the government accountable for their continued avoidance of rising temperatures. Anyway, how did she do it?

It all starts with sovereign bonds. Australia has over $428 billion worth of them. They’re highly sought after due to their AAA rating, given by the three main rating agencies. But what if they didn’t deserve that sweet triple AAA value? Perhaps they don’t.

Due to the impact of climate change on Australia (last year’s bushfires, for example), O’Donnell argues that the Commonwealth has a responsibility to inform investors of these threats. To nobody’s shock, our government has been leaving the environmental issue completely out of its disclosures.

O’Donnell’s file states, “(a) those risks are material to an investor’s decision to trade in exchange-traded Australian Government bonds (e-AGBs) and (b) an investor is entitled to be informed of those risks”.

Is it too early to be throwing the word “genius” around? Essentially, O’Donnell is arguing for transparency and honesty. Words that are sadly unfamiliar to most politicians. Hate to leave you on a cliffhanger, but this is currently all we know. Wishing O’Donnell all the best in her fight for justice.