NATURE'S HOUSING CRISIS
Australia’s wildlife is losing its natural habitats at an unprecedented rate due to human pressures. This “biodiversity” provides the basis for ecosystems and all the services they provide, upon which we all fundamentally depend for life itself. Humane Society International (HSI) is warning that it would be perilous to neglect this natural crisis in the election campaign and is calling on both major parties to commit to a 5 year $10 billion National Biodiversity Program.
Last week the United Nations released its Global Environment Outlook-4 report warning that the planet’s waters, land, air, plants, animals and fish stocks are all in ‘inexorable decline”. Launching the report, the head of the UN’s Environment Program, Achtim Steiner, commented that “The momentum on climate change in 2007 is nothing short of breathtaking. It is time to find the same sense of urgency on biodiversity and degradation, on fisheries and freshwater.”
“Biodiversity protection is often sidelined in environmental debates because policy makers do not recognise its fundamental importance to life on earth as we know it. Biodiversity is the key agent in the carbon and water cycles – essential for both climate stability and water quality – yet it is the poor relation when dollars for the environment are handed out,” said Nicola Beynon HSI’s Wildlife and Habitat Program Manager.
Currently, the Howard Government has allocated $2 billion over the 5 year period from 2008/2009 for the Natural Heritage Trust which deals with biodiversity protection, but this sum has to be shared with the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality. “The current level of investment is simply not enough to secure the nation’s biodiversity assets. A National Biodiversity Program needs its own multi-billion dollar fund. Like climate change, action is needed now before the damage becomes irreversible,” said Ms Beynon. “Just as Tim Flannery has called for a ‘war cabinet’ to fight climate change, a war cabinet is needed to fight the biodiversity crisis, which is equally important to the country’s economic security.”
The National Biodiversity Program HSI is calling for would include:
- the immediate development of a set of clear and detailed national priority actions for biological diversity conservation by an expert Commonwealth-State taskforce (including key NGOs);
- the full implementation and funding of a revised “National Biodiversity and Climate Change Action Plan” ($50 million per annum), establishing a public advisory committee to the environment Minister;
- the renewal, full financing and implementation of the “National Biodiversity Hotspots Program” ($50 million per annum);
- the listing of all endangered and vulnerable ecological communities and critical habitats; and
- the allocation of comprehensive resources to effectively implement all facets of the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.