Indicators of Australia’s environment in 2021 compared with the average for 2000-2020. (Credit: http://www.ausenv.online)
The State of the Environment Report is a five-yearly comprehensive national assessment of the state of the Australian environment, written by independent experts.
The latest one has been described as "grim", "sobering" and "shocking" - though most of us aren't particularly shocked to learn that the state of our environment is "poor" and getting worse.
You can read the full report here, or watch Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek's National Press Club address here. There has been plenty of great content to help wrap your head around it, like this article from The Conversation and this this summary from the Australian Conservation Foundation.
The Bad News
- Overall state of the environment is poor and getting worse.
- 7.7 million ha of threatened species habitat has been destroyed.
- Australia now has more invasive plants than natives.
- 17 mammals, 17 birds and 19 frogs have been added or up-listed to EPBC list.
- Funding for environment has been cut.
- Climate change impacts are now recognised as a current threat, instead of something to be anticipated.
There is, sadly, less good news in this report than previous ones, but here are some of the more positive points:
- Indigenous Knowledge has been acknowledged like never before in this report, with cultural impacts recognised and contributions of more First Nations authors.
- Estuarine crocodile populations are bouncing back from over-hunting, and some northern marine species are also increasing.
- The downward trajectory of 20 species has turned around.
- The Federal Government has committed to protecting 30% of Australia's land and oceans by 2030.
- In her address, Minister for Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek spoke of the seriousness of the report's findings and said that her Government's response to the Samuel Review will help guide a roadmap for moving forward. She also mentions new environmental legislation for 2023 and a draft for a federal independent EPA in coming months. This is all exciting news to us!
What About New Coal Mines?
When asked if this report would empower the Federal Government to rule out approvals for new coal mines (watch from 1:00:37), the Minister replied with the following statements:
- "We're not going to start breaking promises."
- "Mining will continue to be an important part of Australia's prosperity."
- "We are responsible for the carbon pollution that we emit here in Australia... we have ambitious targets for reducing it."
As a major exporter of coal, Australia is uniquely placed to have a significant impact on global greenhouse gas emissions. These statements demonstrate a concerning lack of ambition for real and meaningful action to address climate change, beyond reducing our domestic emissions.
So, what do we do now? Below are some ideas for supporting action on this report...
- Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper, highlighting findings from the report that stuck out to you. Many Australians don't know (or believe) that Australia's environment is in crisis, so the more exposure to these findings, the better.
- Call or write to your State or Federal MP, asking them to reject new fossil fuel projects and support environmental initiatives, in light of the impacts of this newly released report. If you haven't done this before, try this guide from ACF.
This report provides plenty of reasons for despair, but there is some good news and reason for optimism that the Australian Government is under more pressure than ever to protect nature.