July 20, 2022 | 20.21 pm
Australians assessed a recent report that showed how much the nation’s environment has worsened in the last five years as Europe sweltered in the summer heat.
Tuesday saw the long-awaited release of the State of the Environment report, which was introduced by Tanya Plibersek, the new environment minister for Labor.
The report was completed in 2021, but the previous Coalition administration chose not to make it public.
When you read it, you’ll understand why, according to Plibersek, who took over the position six weeks ago after the May election saw a significant shift in favor of political parties and independent candidates calling for more aggressive climate change action.
According to the report, resource extraction, pollution, invasive species, habitat loss, and climate change are all contributing to Australia’s “poor and deteriorating” environment.
The destructive repercussions of the climate catastrophe were intertwined throughout the report, from extreme weather disasters like bushfires and flooding to marine heat waves that have caused widespread coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef.
However, Plibersek said the incoming Labor government would not back down from its pre-election vow to authorize new coal mines, if they obtained environmental approval and economic support. This is despite the dire effects that rising global temperatures are having on Australia’s landscape.
The government would not be increasing Australia’s targets for attaining net zero emissions before its declared target of 2050 or for reducing emissions by 43 percent on 2005 levels by 2030.
“Some would argue that there shouldn’t be any mining anyplace. Simply put, claiming that in a developed economy like Australia’s is not viable or reasonable “She spoke.
“With an interim goal of a 43 percent decrease in carbon pollution, we pledged to have zero net emissions. We’ll stick to our word.”
According to the analysis, Australia’s emissions have probably reached their peak. However, according to climate scientists, this rate of decline is insufficient to satisfy the Paris Agreement’s goal of keeping the increase in the world average temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Labor’s 43 percent aim is consistent with 2 degrees Celsius of global warming, according to analysts at Climate Analytics.
How bad is the environmental degradation?
In a speech to the National Press Club after the report’s release, Plibersek noted that the country has experienced “a plague of marine plastics,” and that Australia has lost more mammal species than any other nation in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s 38 members (a grouping that also includes the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and New Zealand).
Up to 14,000 turtles a year are being strangled by lost or abandoned fishing nets in the country’s northern waters, and along the eastern coast, rising seas have devastated kelp beds, endangering reef habitats as well as abalone and lobster stocks.
Across the past 20 years, habitat for vulnerable species on land has been destroyed in an area larger than 77,000 square kilometers (30,000 square miles), or about the size of Tasmania or Ireland. According to Plibersek, “most of this clearing occurred in little increments.” In actuality, more than 90% of it never received an environmental legislation assessment.
Australia’s koalas, which are now considered endangered in three states and territories, have been harmed by the clearing.
The number of species identified as vulnerable under the nation’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act has increased by 8% since the most recent State of the Environment report, which was published in 2016. (EPBC).
According to the most current research, due to flaws in the risk assessment procedure, both the number of extinctions and the number of endangered species may be considerably higher.
It continued, “Predation from introduced species, especially the feral cat and European red fox, has been the primary cause of most mammal extinctions in Australia.
What’s the government doing about it?
The Liberal-National coalition, which ruled Australia from 2013 until their defeat in the May election, was held solely responsible by the Labor government for the state of the country’s environment.
Plibersek stated in a televised press conference that “the previous government’s financial cuts held up business, they hurt the economy, and they hampered practical measures to safeguard our environment.” She continued by saying that some goals had received so little attention that realizing them would be nearly impossible.
Jonno Duniam, the Liberal Party’s opposition environment minister, charged Plibersek with using the study as a pretext to criticize the previous administration, noting that the Morrison administration had spent billions of dollars on environmental programs.
Less than two months after a contentious election campaign in which both parties attacked one another on policies ranging from the environment to relations with China, Duniam said in a statement, “We focused on the job, without wasting the majority of our energy on misguided attacks on our political opponents.”
Plibersek unveiled a number of new goals on Tuesday, but she postponed others—such as a “once-in-a-generation” revision of Australia’s environment and biodiversity legislation (the EPBC)—until she had more time for extensive consultations.
By aiming to safeguard 30% of Australia’s land and 30% of its oceans by 2030 and considering the formation of new national parks and marine protected areas, the Labor government also intends to “extend the country’s national estate,” according to Plibersek. This includes “pursuing” the East Antarctic Marine Park proposal, which would safeguard a sizable portion of the Ross Sea and has the support of Australia, France, and the European Union.
To prevent the devastation seen in 2020 when mining behemoth Rio Tinto destroyed the revered Juukan Gorge caverns in Western Australia to build its iron ore mine, the measures also call for increased protection for Indigenous sites.
Plibersek said, “We are very fortunate to have such a rich First Nations cultural history; of course, we need better methods for conserving it that don’t result in horrible, shameful outcomes, like Juukan Gorge.”
The report also emphasized the necessity of granting the First Nations people of Australia more authority over the preservation and restoration of the land. By the end of the decade, the government intends to quadruple the number of Indigenous rangers to 3,800.
Changes to Australia’s environmental rules, according to economist Nicki Hutley of the Climate Council, must compel the government to take climate change implications into account when approving new coal and gas projects.
The previous administration successfully overturned a court decision earlier this year that mandated the federal environment minister take into account how new coal mines would affect children.
According to Kelly O’Shanassy, CEO of the Australian Conservation Foundation, independent scrutiny is also necessary to guarantee that government targets are met.
Strong national environmental regulations, an independent regulator to uphold them, and sufficient financing for the recovery of Australia’s threatened species and the restoration of degraded landscapes are necessary to stop the country’s environmental disaster.