Our environmental protection efforts a global embarrassment
In yet another example of burying bad news during the festive season (or the silly one, take your pick) the federal Department of the Environment and Energy quietly released a draft plan in the week before Christmas titled Australia’s Strategy for Nature 2018-2030.
This is a mere 17-page document aiming to “care for nature in all our many environments” against threats such as climate change, feral pests, pollution and urban development. All that in 17 pages.
Not surprisingly then this official plan to protect the nation’s animals and plants has been denounced by critics as a “global embarrassment”, at the same time as a federal government adviser warns that future generations of Australians may never know a world rich in nature.
It comes amid figures showing 134 species have been classed as threatened in the seven years since Australia’s last plan to protect biodiversity was released, including the Cape York rock wallaby, the Australian fairy tern and the blue star sun orchid.
The ever-growing list points to a disastrous failure by successive state and federal governments to reverse the crisis of species loss.
Australia has one of the world’s worst extinction records and a national State of the Environment report last year declared biodiversity, which includes plant and animal species, habitats and ecological communities, was worsening.
Perhaps indicative of the government’s attitude, the new draft plan has dispensed with specific targets, and instead contains sweeping objectives such as “encourage Australians to get out into nature” and “enrich cities and towns with nature”.
Understandably, an alliance of Australia’s biggest environment groups including the Australian Conservation Foundation, The Wilderness Society and WWF described the document as “deeply inadequate” and “a global embarrassment” which shirked Australia’s international obligations to arrest a steep biodiversity decline.
The alliance, known as The Places You Love, decried the absence of measurable targets, and said the strategy contained no new funding or laws, or any other “concrete commitments to save Australia’s precious natural world.”
Humane Society International Australia head of programs Evan Quartermain said rather than addressing the failure to meet previous targets, the Turnbull government “has served up simplistic and unmeasurable dot points that … fall far short of the international commitments to conserve biodiversity we have made at the United Nations”.
Australian Conservation Foundation policy analyst James Trezise described it as a “wafer-thin plan … which reads like a Year 10 school assignment”.
A Sun-Herald editorial on this very topic, trying no doubt to find something of merit in this abysmal document, noted that “We, the people of Australia, are the collective custodians of this land and its future …We are custodians of its fauna, responsible for ensuring there will be flourishing diversity of species for generations to come.
Every one of us must play our part. Yet, when we look to the federal and state governments for leadership on this issue, there is an abysmal retreat under way.”
In a related issue, Greens Senator for Queensland Andrew Bartlett said last week that Malcolm Turnbull’s pledge of millions of dollars to protect the Great Barrier Reef ”is a wasteful publicity stunt aimed at distracting attention away from those who continue to put the Reef at risk.”
If Mr Turnbull was serious about protecting the Great Barrier Reef, he would listen to scientists and transition away from the real reef-killer: the fossil fuel industry.