Australia’s biodiversity strategy a global embarrassment, green groups say | Environment

Extinction prevention plan branded ‘deeply inadequate’ after environment department publishes paper without targets

785 - Australia's biodiversity strategy a global embarrassment, green groups say | Environment






The Leadbeater’s possum was listed as critically endangered in 2015, with 80% of its population lost since the 1980s.
Photograph: Healesville Sanctuary

The federal government’s latest strategy to protect Australian plants and animals facing extinction has been branded “deeply inadequate” and “a global embarrassment” by environment groups.

The Sydney Morning Herald revealed that a new 13-page document had quietly replaced the old 100-page biodiversity conservation strategy just before Christmas on the Department of Environment’s website.

Entitled Australia’s Strategy for Nature 2018-2030, the paper outlines three goals and 12 objectives but contains no measurable targets and scant detail of actions that will be taken by state and federal governments to achieve the objectives.

The Humane Society International’s Australian head of programs, Evan Quartermain, said rather than addressing the failure to meet previous targets, the Turnbull government had “served up simplistic and unmeasurable dod points that … fall short of the international commitments to conserve biodiversity that we have made at the United Nations.”

The Australian Conservation Foundation’s policy analyst James Trezise described it as a “wafer-thin plan … which reads like a year-10 school assignment.”

The goals in the plan include “connect all Australians with nature” and “care for nature in all its diversity”.

The objectives underpinning those goals are just as broad and include statements like “maximise the number of species secured in nature,” but no details as to how this objective might be achieved.

This contrasts with the 100-page document released in 2010 to tackle the threats to Australia’s biodiversity. It included a detailed action plan to both boost awareness of the threats to endangered species and to tackle threats which included farming and fishing practices, pollution and climate change.

For example, it included a target of involving more Indigenous communities in managing the natural environment and set a target of a 25% increase in employment as a measurable goal.

Australia has one of the highest levels of extinction of species and is among the top 10 countries for species that are endangered or threatened.

Australia has lost more mammal and plant species over the past 200 years than any other country, but it also has one of the highest number of mammal species. Of the 273 Australian endemic land mammal species, there have been 29 extinctions, which equates to 11%.

Some 909 species are categorised as critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable on the Red List, an international list that has been running since 1964.

In 2015 the federal government launched a threatened species strategy to much fanfare and promised to make it a priority. The year one report card showed that 21 of the 26 objectives in that report were achieved. The targets were far more defined and included tackling feral cats and fox-baiting programs.

But critics say more needs to be done about land clearing leading to a loss of habitat, which has accelerated under state governments in Queensland, Western Australia and likely in NSW due to more relaxed laws.