Media release

Australia’s new Strategy for Nature a global embarrassment

January 21, 2018

The Places You Love alliance has slammed the Federal Government’s draft Australia’s Strategy for Nature 2018-2030 as deeply inadequate and failing to address Australia’s crisis of dying wildlife and environmental destruction.

The alliance, representing some of Australia’s largest conservation groups, said the new national plan was weak to the point of being a global embarrassment and shirked international obligations to halt the alarming loss of biodiversity.

The draft strategy would replace the detailed 102-page Australia’s Biodiversity Conservation Strategy 2010–2030 that set out 10 interim national targets for conserving Australia’s vital and unique biodiversity. Analysis by Humane Society International Australia found just one of ten interim targets had been met, with the progress described as: “disappointing to a point where both the targets and the processes for implementing them require major review”.

In response, the new 17-page strategy contains no measurable targets, no new funding or other concrete commitments to save Australia’s precious natural world.

“The draft strategy paints a distressing picture of disinterest – it is completely lacking in substance and offers little to arrest the severe declines of Australian wildlife. This strategy comes off the back of the government’s refusal to effectively enforce national laws to stop bulldozing of threatened species habitats, cuts to renewable energy, a failure to reduce carbon emissions, and attacks on the advocacy rights of charities. Australia’s wildlife deserves better than this,” said WWF Australia conservation scientist, Dr Martin Taylor.

“Instead of addressing our failure to meet the previous strategy’s goals the government has served up simplistic and unmeasurable dot points that are an embarrassment on the global stage and fall far short of the international commitments to conserve biodiversity we have made at the United Nations,” said Humane Society International Australia Head of Programs, Evan Quartermain.

“Australians love our country’s precious wildlife. We rely on Australia’s biodiversity to provide us with clean air and water. It helps grow our food and enriches our lives with places for recreation and rest. And yet our natural world is under more stress than ever before. It is an indictment that the Turnbull Government’s response is a wafer-thin plan with no measurable targets, no new action, laws or funding and which reads like a Year 10 school assignment,” said Australian Conservation Foundation Policy Analyst, James Trezise.

Australia is among the 194 countries to have adopted international biodiversity rescue targets for this decade under the Convention on Biological Diversity. But despite a review warning that the federal government has yet to implement the Convention targets in national policy with just two years left, the draft strategy still fails to put them in place.

The new national strategy also fails to address the Turnbull Government’s own 2016 State of the Environment report, which warned that “Australia’s biodiversity is under increased threat and has, overall, continued to decline”.

“The draft Strategy shows that the Turnbull government is not taking its legal obligations under Australia’s international commitments or our national environmental protection laws seriously,” said Brendan Sydes, lawyer with Environmental Justice Australia.

“The Turnbull Government has dropped any semblance of being concerned about Australia’s wildlife and vegetation with this supposed strategy for conservation. The government failed to meet nine out of 10 pretty poor targets from the previous conservation strategy and has dropped targets altogether in this plan so it doesn’t have any targets to meet next time. This lack of any real action will all but guarantee Australia continues to have the worst mammal extinction rate on the planet,” said The Wilderness Society National Nature Campaign Manager, Suzanne Milthorpe.

“As it stands it’s hard to see how this strategy will improve the status of Australia’s birds or Key Biodiversity Areas, that many of our most threatened species depend on to survive,” said Head of Conservation at BirdLife Australia, Samantha Vine.

The 10 interim national targets contained within Australia’s Biodiversity Conservation Strategy 2010-2030 were:

1. By 2015, achieve a 25% increase in the number of Australians and public and private organisations who participate in biodiversity conservation activities.
2. By 2015, achieve a 25% increase in employment and participation of Indigenous peoples in biodiversity conservation.
3. By 2015, achieve a doubling of the value of complementary markets for ecosystem services.
4. By 2015, achieve a national increase of 600,000 km2 of native habitat managed primarily for biodiversity conservation across terrestrial, aquatic and marine environments.
5. By 2015, 1,000 km2 of fragmented landscapes and aquatic systems are being restored to improve ecological connectivity.
6. By 2015, four collaborative continental-scale linkages are established and managed to improve ecological connectivity.
7. By 2015, reduce by at least 10% the impacts of invasive species on threatened species and ecological communities in terrestrial, aquatic and marine environments.
8. By 2015, nationally agreed science and knowledge priorities for biodiversity conservation are guiding research activities.
9. By 2015, all jurisdictions will review relevant legislation, policies and programs to maximise alignment with Australia’s Biodiversity Conservation Strategy.
10. By 2015, establish a national long-term biodiversity monitoring and reporting system.

The Australian Government has been urged to replace them with goals in line with agreed international targets for 2020 under the Convention for Biological Diversity. Instead of adopting more robust targets in line with international commitments the newly proposed “goals” within Australia’s strategy for nature 2018-2030, fall embarrassingly short. The new goals read:

– Encourage Australians to get out into nature
– Empower Australians to be active stewards of nature
– Increase Australians’ understanding of the value of nature
– Respect and maintain traditional ecological knowledge and stewardship of nature
– Improve conservation management of Australia’s landscapes, seascapes and aquatic environments
– Maximise the number of species secured in nature
– Reduce threats to nature and build resilience
– Use and develop natural resources in an ecologically sustainable way
– Enrich cities and towns with nature
– Increase knowledge about nature to make better decisions
– Share and use information effectively
– Effective measurement to demonstrate our collective efforts

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