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Why arenít Australiaís environment laws preventing widespread land clearing?

Samantha Hepburn writes in The Conversation (8.3.18) that Australia's federal environment laws are inadequate to halt Australia's alarming rates of land clearing and species loss. The author suggests that a more robust set of laws is urgently needed.

'Australia has national environment laws – the Environment Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act). Yet given the staggering rates of land clearing taking place, resulting in the extinction and endangerment of plants and animals in Australia, these laws are clearly not working.

'About 395,000 hectares of regrowth and old growth vegetation were cleared during 2015-16 in Queensland. Australia is set to clear up to 3 million hectares of native forest by 2030, and more than 1,800 plant and animal species are currently listed as threatened nationally.

'When the EPBC Act was first implemented in 1999, the idea was for it to provide reinforced federal environmental protection to areas of national environmental significance. But in reality, many projects that come within the ambit of the Act are not rigorously evaluated for their environmental impact.

'... Climate change is almost universally accepted as one the most serious environmental threats. Yet the EPBC Act does not include a climate change trigger (or a land clearing trigger, as discussed above).

'This means these key threats to Australia’s environment will not be protected by EPBC Act. They may attract the EPBC Act indirectly, but only if it can be established that they raise a different trigger that is listed under the Act. This calls into question the capacity of our national environment laws to truly protect areas of national environmental significance.

'In order to reverse unacceptable rates of land clearing, preserve ecosystems and habitats and diminish greenhouse gas emissions, a new framework for our national environment act is urgently needed.'

 

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