The federal government has announced new federal environment laws in response to the grim state of native animal populations and declining ecosystems revealed in a report released earlier this week.
Environment and Water Minister Tanya Plibersek released the ‘State of the Environment 2021’ report, which finds Australia has suffered catastrophic losses of wildlife and habitat because of ecological calamities.
Australia will also conserve 30 per cent of its land and 30 percent of its sea areas by 2030 in line with the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. Also, Australia will explore the creation of new national parks and marine protected areas.
When the previous State of the Environment was released in 2016, 17 mammal species were either added to the endangered list or upgraded to the critically endangered list. Seventeen birds and 19 frog species have since been added to those lists.
“Individually, every one of these revelations is dreadful, but it’s only when you think about the cumulative impact that you begin to get the full picture of environmental decline,” said Minister Plibersek.
“If we continue on the trajectory that we are on, the precious places, landscapes, animals and plants that we think of when we think of home may not be here for our kids and grandkids.”
She promised the federal government would formally respond to the Samuel Review, a 10-yearly assessment of federal environment laws that found urgent action was needed to improve the current big holes in the environmental protection regime.
Land clearing is listed as a top cause of wildlife losses with 7.7 million hectares cleared in the 17 years to 2017.
Plibersek pledged to create new environmental legislation in 2023 and to establish a new Environmental Protection Agency as a watchdog on federal protections.
About 26 per cent of Australia’s landmass is currently under conservation, but Labor’s pledge to protect a further 4 per cent and take the total to 30 per cent would cover an additional 300,000 square kilometres.
Plibersek also revealed that it was unlikely government could meet the deadline for the $13 billion Murray Darling Basin Plan to recover water from agriculture to improve the environment of Australia’s largest river system. “I think it will be … well, I have to be honest with you … next to impossible given where we are starting from,” she said.
Footnote: The release of the report came a day before Britain recorded its hottest day ever when the mercury topped 40.3C. The heatwave conditions also sparked numerous blazes and homes were lost in the fires.