08 March, 2017
Courtesy of the Australian
National leadership and a long- term vision are needed to reverse the trend decline of Australia’s environment that faces pressures from development, farming and climate change, a five-yearly report on the state of the nation’s environment says.
Federal Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg said snapshot had “some very positive signs”, but green groups said it added weight to calls for an independent national regulator.
The State of the Environment report, by independent scientists, found mixed outcomes over the past five years. While there had been some improvements, including the Murray-Darling Basin and marine reserve areas, pressures continued to build, notably from urban development, coal mining and coal-seam gas production, it said.
The main pressures the were same as in 2011, the last report: climate change, land-use change, habitat fragmentation and degradation and invasive species.
Chief author William Jackson, a consultant and adjunct professor at University of Sunshine Coast, said it was clear some parts of Australia’s environment were not being managed sustainably.
“In addition, the interactions between pressures are resulting in cumulative impacts, amplifying the threats faced,” he said. This was most notable in coastal areas, where climate change and increasing activity raised pressures.
Without substantial change, “there is doubt about the capacity of our natural capital to continue to provide the services required” to support our economy and wellbeing in the longer term, he said.
Australia lacked an overarching policy with a clear vision to protect and sustain the environment to 2050, the report said.
Mr Frydenberg said the commonwealth was working with the states to improve data collection and environmental health.
However, green groups were not impressed. WWF said another 53 million hectares needed protection to meet the minimum level of 15 per cent of the pre-European distribution of each forest ecosystem.
The Wilderness Society said the report showed almost all environmental indicators declining since the first snapshot 20 years ago. More than 1200 plants and 500 animal species were threatened with extinction.
“We need a tough new independent environmental watchdog, with wide powers and real funding to deliver an environment plan that also addresses climate change,” said national director Lyndon Schneiders.