Skip navigation

Australia’s environment in crisis demands urgent action

Independent Senator for the ACT, Senator David Pocock, said the latest five-yearly State of the Environment reports released today makes for shocking reading and urges a fast, wide-ranging and well-resourced Government response, including reform of the EPBC Act.

“The report comprises more than 2,000 pages by 37 expert authors, including and for the first time, 13 First Nations authors. It’s devastating reading,” Senator Pocock said.

“The findings clearly show the utter mismanagement of our ecosystems over decades.

“This report should make all Australians sit up, take notice and ask ourselves, what kind of future are we creating for the next generation?

“Far from being a leader, this report highlights how poor Australia’s performance is when it comes to managing one of the most spectacular, unique and ancient environments on the planet.

“In one short decade we have listed 377 plant and animal species as threatened.

“We have lost more mammal species than any other continent and continue to have one of the highest rates of species decline among countries in the OECD. 

“We have the third highest cumulative loss of soil organic carbon in the world, and are among the world’s largest per-person emitters, as well as ranking in the top 15 total emitters globally.

“The Murray Darling Basin is in crisis, there is mass coral bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef, rampant plastic pollution in our oceans and we now have more foreign plant species than native ones.

“The report reveals of the 7.7 million hectares of habitat cleared between 2000 and 2017, 93% was not referred to the Australian Government for assessment under the EPBC Act.

“Indigenous heritage and cultural knowledge continues to be lost and destroyed.

“This simply can not continue.

“We can reverse declines in the state of our environment, but we have to act now.”

“I look forward to Minister Plibersek outlining the Government’s response to what is a national crisis. My hope is that it contains plans for urgent, comprehensive action to protect and restore our shared heritage.

“Responding to these findings will be a mammoth task but it is absolutely essential. We cannot delay any longer."

Almost two years ago, the final report of the independent Samuel’s review into federal environmental law found that legislation was failing us. 

It said the EPBC Act ‘does not enable the Commonwealth to effectively protect environmental matters that are important for the nation’ and that it ‘is not fit to address current or future environmental challenges.’

“The time for reform to that legislation is now. The time for the Australian Government to step up and protect the only environment we have is now.”

Senator Pocock noted that the causes of the destruction outlined in the 2021 State of the Environment report are not new. They are the same causes set out in previous reports: climate change, land-use change, habitat degradation and invasive species. 

“As this report shows, what is changing is the increasing level of intensity of change and the pressure this is placing on Australia’s heritage and environment,” Senator Pocock said.

“The World Economic Forum considers environmental degradation to be a threat to humanity, ‘which could bring about societal collapses and long-lasting and severe consequences.’

“We are part of Nature. The environment has direct links to human health outcomes. Biodiversity is linked to stress reduction, increased respiratory health, lower rates of depression and high blood pressure and overall improvements in human wellbeing.”

Senator Pocock pointed to the severe economic costs of environmental mismanagement noting the total annual cost of weeds across the agricultural sector is nearly $5 billion.

He also noted the Report’s authors provided guidance about how to go about meeting these challenges saying that, ‘To improve the outlook for our environment, communities and economy, we will need to strengthen and build connections: connecting people with Country; connecting economics with the environment; and connecting biodiversity, lands, rivers, seas, skies and soils.’

“There is an opportunity to use data collection, curation and analysis to develop an effective method for adaptive and integrated environmental management,” Senator Pocock said.

“We can reverse declines in the state of our environment, but we have to act now.”

Continue Reading

Read More