MEDIA RELEASE for World Environment Day (June 5 2017)
Peak state environment group Queensland Conservation Council has highlighted major land clearing law reform, a rapid expansion of renewable energy, and strong climate change action at the state and national level as the key components needed to help save the Great Barrier Reef and protect Queensland’s special wildlife such as the koala.
UNESCO has just released a draft position on the ongoing status of the Great Barrier Reef, and has identified the lack of strong land clearing laws as a core factor in reef water quality targets being missed into the future. The international body has indicated concerns about whether the Reef 2050 Plan from the Australian and Queensland governments will be fulfilled, with issues about emissions reductions and ongoing land clearing in reef catchments as priorities yet to be addressed.
The Palaszczuk government attempted to strengthen Queensland’s land clearing laws in 2016, weakened under the Newman LNP government, but was frustrated in the hung Parliament by the LNP and several crossbenchers. Clearing rates rose dramatically since the LNP’s changes, and currently about 300,000 hectares of land are being cleared each year. Much of this is in reef catchments, and it also includes koala habitat.
Speaking ahead of World Environment Day, Queensland Conservation Council head Dr Tim Seelig said: “For the sake of the Great Barrier Reef and for the sake of koalas and our other special wildlife, we need urgent action on stopping rampant land clearing in Queensland.
“Land clearing on an industrial scale in Great Barrier Reef catchments is adding to sediment run off into reef waters, increasing water quality problems when we need to be reducing them.
“Other land clearing is destroying the homes of koalas, and other endangered species, and is also allowing the release of huge volumes of carbon into the atmosphere, making climate change worse.
“Stronger land clearing laws introduced by Labor have previously been supported by the Queensland Liberals. Sadly, the LNP’s more recent position of allowing much more clearing and its refusal to accept the problems this is causing, means that even the international community now urges action for stronger laws.
“We urge the current LNP leadership to put politics to one side, and back the push for stronger land clearing laws and regulations. The same goes for the Independents and minor parties in the Parliament.
“We also implore both sides of politics at the state and Federal levels to back the growth of renewable energy in Queensland, and to support strong state action on climate change.
“We need to shift our economy, our state development plans, and our communities’ growth around preventing as much future climate change as possible, as well as preparing to adapt to what is now locked in.
“This means no longer looking to new coal mines and gas expansion as the solutions to energy and employment needs, and instead backing renewable energy and other sustainable growth. Energy, transport, industry and agriculture are all areas that need to play a part in becoming carbon neutral, as are the public sector and government itself.
“Moving away from fossil fuels and instead locking in ambitious renewable energy targets via legislation, investment and progress reporting can ensure we transition Queensland into a 21st Century economic, social and environmental powerhouse.
“World Environment Day is a great time for us all to reflect on our fragile natural world, and to think about how we can better help protect it.”
World Environment Day is 5 June each year, and is a global opportunity to acknowledge the importance of nature in our lives, and the state of the environment and what’s needed for its better protection.
For further comment contact:
Queensland Conservation Council Coordinator Dr Tim Seelig on 0439 201 183