Australia promises new environmental laws as five-year report takes stock of lost land and species

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — A five-year government report found Australia’s environment continues to deteriorate due to climate change, resource extraction and other causes, prompting leaders on Tuesday to promise new laws and apply them.

The state of the environment report also adds political pressure on the government to set a more ambitious greenhouse gas reduction target when parliament resumes next week for the first time since the US election. May 21st.

The previous Conservative government received the report in December but decided not to release it until after the election.

The centre-left Labor Party won pledges including greater action on climate change.

He wants an emissions reduction target of 43% from 2005 by the end of the decade, enshrined in law when Parliament sits on July 26.

Several non-aligned lawmakers want a more ambitious goal. Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek said the report sent a “very strong message that we need to do better”, but she dismissed calls for deeper emissions cuts.

Tanya Plibersek, then Labor’s Shadow Minister for Education and Shadow Minister for Women, speaks at the May Day rally in Sydney, May 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

“On the 43% target, we made a promise to the Australian people. We are going to keep the promise we made to the Australian people,” Plibersek told the National Press Club.

She said she would introduce new environmental protection laws to parliament next year and the government would set up an agency to enforce them.

The government will also set a target to have 30% of Australia’s land and surrounding sea declared as protected areas. He wants to create an East Antarctica marine park.

“I am optimistic about the steps we can take over the next three years. Legislating strong action on climate change is a good start,” Plibersek said.

The wide-ranging report found that the number of Australian species listed as threatened had increased by 8% since the 2016 report.

That number rose dramatically after wildfires in 2019 and 2020 destroyed large swathes of forests in southeastern Australia, the report said.

Kelly O’Shanassy, ​​chief executive of the Australian Conservation Foundation, an environmental organisation, said land clearing was the main cause of habitat loss.

“There is nothing in this report that we don’t know. This is the fourth state of the environment report and each time it tells us that the environment is getting worse and worse because we are not taking the kind of action we need to take,” said O’Shanassy told Australian Broadcasting Corp.

She welcomed the government’s commitment to legislative reform.

“That’s what we need to do pretty quickly or else these endangered species will go extinct and they will in our lifetimes,” O’Shanassy said.

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