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Morrison Government re-election would be an environmental catastrophe

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Scott Morrison's Liberal Party has been responsible for a great deal of damage to Australia's environment (Image by Dan Jensen)

If the Morrison Government wins the next federal election, Australia can kiss goodbye to our unique, irreplaceable wildlife.

Environmental crises are now of global concern and the failure of mainstream media to ensure the crises are front-page news is allowing this Government to get away with what amounts to a war against the environment.   

A war with catastrophic losses. 

In 2019, a U.N.-backed panel released a report indicating up to one million species faced extinction within decades because of human activities, the loss of species and habitats posing as much risk as climate change.

In August 2021, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s working group report was a “code red for humanity”. Scientists are observing changes across the whole of Earth’s climate system. Some of the shifts are already irreversible for centuries.

The report was prepared by 234 scientists from 66 countries, indicating CO2 concentrations are higher than at any time in the last 2 million years.

Back home in Australia, the U.N. climate change report produced a yawn from the Right-wing political establishment. 

Claiming the benefits of carbon capture and storage technology on ABC News, Energy Minister Angus Taylor said: “Technology has helped humanity overcome obstacles in the past.”

“I’m not terrified of climate change,” claimed Taylor in December, resisting calls for zero-carbon targets. “I believe in people’s capacity to solve our problems and be enterprising.”

The NSW Government’s website on climate change mitigation provides a frightening example of not only the vulnerability of this country but a steadfast rejection of current scientific warnings:

The international scientific community is working hard to understand and narrow down the uncertainties in future climate projections, through modelling, observations and synthesis of results.

 

It is possible that there will be rapid transitions in the climate or “tipping points” associated with global warming, but they “...cannot yet be predicted with confidence. These uncertainties work in both directions: There is a chance that climate change will be less severe than the current estimates of climate science, but there is also a chance that it will be more severe” (Australian Academy of Science 2010).

Note the ongoing use of out-of-date research to support the Government’s hypothesis.

Climate change is listed as a key threatening process under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act.

Under the heading of ‘Threat Abatement Plan’, the following statement is made in relation to the nomination of climate change as a key threatening process:

In their original assessment of the nomination ESSS [Endangered Species Scientific Sub-committee] provided advice that “a reduction in the emission of greenhouse gases requires an internationally-coordinated effort and that international efforts have been and will continue to be made in this area”.

 

ESSS concluded that a nationally coordinated threat abatement plan was not considered a feasible, effective and efficient way to abate the process, “as most emissions of greenhouse gases are produced outside Australia and a reduction in emissions will require complex national and international negotiations”.

Incredibly, the ESSS is an advisory sub-committee established under the Endangered Species Act 1992, legislation replaced by the EPBC Act 1999.

The penchant the Federal Government has for continuing to rely on significantly out-of-date environmental research is a matter of grave concern and worthy of investigation by a parliamentary committee.

The current Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC) concluded that a nationally coordinated ‘threat abatement plan is not feasible, effective or efficient way to abate the process’.

No doubt music to Environment Minister Sussan Ley’s ears.

Recently, a group of teenagers, led by a nun, challenged the Federal Minister over her failure to consider climate impacts on future generations resulting from fossil fuel projects. Specifically, an extension of the Vickery coal mine owned by Whitehaven. 

The Federal Court ruled that Ley had a duty to consider the climate change impacts of fossil fuel projects. Ley appealed the ruling decision and a hearing is set to be heard in the Federal Court in October. However, the impending hearing presented no challenge to the Minister who approved the mine extension last week.

An underground coal mine near Wollongong was approved by Ley in early September.

Another battleground recently opened up. The Morrison Government proposes scrapping recovery plans for almost 200 endangered species.

According to an article in The Guardian, recovery plans are documents that set out actions needed to prevent species extinction. Ministers are legally bound not to make decisions that are inconsistent with the plans.

Most recovery plans are in the departmental “too hard basket”.  A koala recovery plan is now nine years overdue, although a draft was recently published. 

Instead of recovery plans, the Minister will now rely on conservation advices.

Media reports indicate that the list of scrapped recovery plans is only the first tranche. 

Sussan Ley is quoted as saying the reason for this unprecedented change is based on advice from the TSSC.

Yet in their recommendations to the EPBC Act review discussion paper in 2020, the TSSC advised:

‘Recovery Plans are retained for species/ecological communities with high public profile, bespoke management and/or stakeholder coordination needs.

 

Approval standards for Regional Conservation Plans, Recovery Plans and Threat Abatement Plans require them to be costed and implemented with appropriate investment, with outcome reporting at agreed intervals.’

The TSSC submission to the EPBC Act interim review 2020 acknowledges the importance of recovery plans.

Recovery plans are particularly important for cross-jurisdictional threatened species and ecological communities, and marine species and ecological communities.

Under s.139(b) of the EPBC Act, requirements for decisions about threatened species and endangered communities state a minister may not approve an action that is inconsistent with a recovery plan or threat abatement plan.

Whether any conservation organisation challenges this latest environmental missile remains to be seen.

On 31 October, the U.N. Climate Change Conference UK 2021 will be held in Glasgow.

CNN reports that:

‘...when a senior U.N. official warned Australia’s climate inaction would eventually “wreak havoc” on its economy, Australia’s Resources Minister, Keith Pitt, dismissed the UN as a “foreign body” that should mind its own business. He even bragged about Australia’s plans to keep mining coal “well beyond 2030”.’

A Sydney Morning Herald poll shows 45 per cent support for Morrison as preferred PM.

Has Australia become a zombie country?

Sue Arnold is an IA columnist and freelance investigative journalist. You can follow Sue on Twitter @koalacrisis.

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