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Achieving net zero: recent jurisprudence on the legal requirements to account for the effect of Downstream or scope 3 emissions in Australia and the UK

Jennifer McKay, University of South Australia


Courts are being used by citizen movements to challenge government inaction to achieve net zero as required under binding laws. A key aspect to the argument is the impact on present and future generations of the downstream effect of Scope 3 emissions. Scope 3 emissions refer to indirect greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that occur due to an organization’s activities but are beyond its direct operational control. These emissions encompass the entire life cycle of a product or service, including emissions from suppliers, customers and other stakeholders.

The paper will look at two cases Waratah coal from Queensland and the Finch case from the UK and extract a set of lessons reflecting the pervasive nature of climate change and the net zero requirements embedded in Australian and UK law.

The paper will reflect on:

  • Environmental impact statements; and
  • Consideration of present and future generations


Professor Jennifer McKay AM was born in Melbourne and studied Geography and environmental management at the University of Melbourne for her PhD. Then she studied Law at the University of Adelaide and after admission practiced for Finlaysons in Commercial advisory. She completed a Graduate diploma in human rights law at American University in 2009 whilst on a senior Fulbright at UC Berkeley. She has recently completed a Graduate certificate in Education online learning. She is a socio-legal researcher applying empirical research methods to socio legal questions about law, business and the environment and environmental management, human rights and climate change. She practices engaged research and won the Premiers medal for advice based in her water law research. This award was for research on trust in government and water planning processes. She has over 183 publications and in these has experimented with innovative methods to evaluate the emotional aspects to law and enforcement and the impacts of laws chilling human rights. She is engaging currently in further research on protest laws. She teaches environmental law, domestic and international and business law courses and engages students in reflective practices. She co edits the IUCN Journal of Environmental law.