March 21 - 27, 2021: Issue 488


Taking The Federal 'Environment' Minister To Court: With Australian Ecosystems Collapsing, Major Rivers 'Functionally Extinct', Koalas 2nd To The Logging $ - When Will Enough Be Enough?

photo by A J Guesdon, 2021 - this spotted gum tree hollow being inspected by this galah is home to microbats.

It's been a while since we ran an update on the 8 students taking the Australian Environment Minister to court, and as there was another School Strike for Climate change in Hyde Park Sydney on Friday March 19th, the #NoMoreEmptyPromises Global Climate Protest, a quick update is due.

Equity Generation Lawyers are managing the case and the applicants’ barristers are Noel Hutley SC, Emrys Nekvapil, Katherine Brazenor, and Stephanie C B Brenker. The class action has been heard in the Melbourne Federal Court with 86-year-old Brigidine nun Sister Brigid Arthur supporting the students as their "litigation guardian".

The presiding officer is Justice Bromberg, who was appointed to the Federal Court of Australia in 2009. 

The lead applicant of the case in the federal court in Melbourne is Anj Sharma, a 16-year-old student. Her involvement evolved from her role helping organise a Greta Thunberg-inspired school strike for climate in September 2019, when about 100,000 marched in the Victorian capital. 

Seven others are joining Anj and since the procedures began, over 1500 other young people have joined the class action

Anj says all eight have “very personal stories about climate change”, including the changing impact of the monsoon season on family members in India and witnessing firsthand the impact of fracking for coal-seam gas.

For example,  Luca Saunders is a 15 year old living on Darug and Gundungurra land in the Blue Mountains. 

Luca says; ''Last year, during Australia’s destructive black summer, massive fires came only hundreds of metres away from destroying my drought-racked town and home. The fires decimated 80% of the national park I’ve grown up in. Small communities like mine are still struggling to overcome the aftermath of the fires over a year later, with little to no support from our government. Young people especially are having to deal with the immense mental strain of climate and ecological anxiety.''

''This case is a landmark because it brings voices like ours to the stage - voices of survivors of the climate crisis, scientists, and young people. After years of minimal action, we have a chance to set a precedent, and pave the way for a climate safe future in Australia!''

The case is a response to a proposal by Whitehaven Coal to extend its Vickery coalmine in northern New South Wales. The application was listed as a State Significant Project by the NSW Department of Planning. The expansion of the mine could lead to an extra 100m tonnes of CO2 – about 20% of Australia’s annual climate footprint – being released into the atmosphere as the extracted coal is shipped overseas and burned.

The teenagers and their legal team argue the federal environment minister, Sussan Ley, would be breaching a common law duty of care to protect younger people against future harm if she used her powers under national environment laws to allow the mine extension to go ahead.

The Extension Project was assessed by the NSW Independent Planning Commission (the IPC) which granted development consent for the Extension Project subject to a number of conditions. The Approval stated that 'the Applicant must implement all reasonable and feasible measures to prevent, and if prevention is not reasonable and feasible, minimise, any material harm to the environment that may result from the construction and operation of the development, and any rehabilitation required under this consent.'

The proponents stated in their 2019 EIS documents that 1,671 ha of freehold land adjoining Mount Kaputar National Park as a biodiversity offset area is a key feature of the Project. And that the Socio-Economic assessment indicates the Project would provide a net production benefit of approximately $915 million and would provide significant economic stimulus to the regional and New South Wales economies. 

This amounts to around 36.6 million annually. Others calculated in 2020, as coal demand falls, that this is a $607 million expansion and 24.28 mill per annum.

The extension will double the mine’s yearly coal output, and disturb an additional 1284 hectares of fertile farmland and remnant woodland, with operation to be allowed for 25 years, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Whitehaven doesn't have a good track record either. The company faced new charges in March 2020 for alleged illegal drilling at its Narrabri Coal Mine, and Whitehaven had been taken to court six times in the past for other offences, including work-place safety breaches and unfulfilled biodiversity offset obligations. The company has been fined multiple times in the past for allowing toxic blast fumes to drift over neighbouring properties, polluting air and water, illegal dumping of waste and illegal clearing of bushland. The Vickery mine would also need to gain access to an estimated 1,750 megalitres of water annually.

Despite strong public opposition, and complaints from the Narrabri Shire Council, the Independent Planning Commission gave a green light to the expansion. The decision set an alarming precedent for the IPC’s next major decision in relation to the Narrabri Gas Project, which was also subsequently approved via a 'gas-led recovery' slogan.

By letter dated  August 14th 2020, the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment provided a copy of the IPC’s signed development consent, together with the NSW Department’s Assessment Report, to the Minister. 

The Extension Project would involve an increase in the total coal to be extracted over the life of the mine from 135 Mt to 168 Mt, with an increase in the maximum annual extraction rate to 10 Mt. A further 3.5 million tonnes (Mt.) of coal extracted from other mining operations may be received at the site annually.

The Australian ENVIRONMENT Minister is subject to a statutory duty to make a decision whether or not to approve the Extension Project for the purpose of the relevant controlling provisions of Part 3 of the Act. Such a decision must be made within the statutory timeframe, which was extended to December 10 2020.

Because of the prior approval of the Approved Project, the Minister’s approval under the Act is only required to extract the increased amount of coal at the increased annual extraction rate.

The trial in this landmark case commenced on Tuesday, 2 March 2021 (Melbourne time). The trial was scheduled to run 2 -5 March and, if required, on Friday 12 March. 

The case was adjourned on March 5th, with the matter now recording 'Reserved Judgement' against its listing.

Reserved judgments are those that are usually complex and require time for the judge to deliberate. 

This is the second case in Australia based on 'future damage'. In August 2020, Vickery was approved by the Independent Planning Commission NSW. In February 2019, EDO secured a landmark legal victory, with the refusal of the proposed Rocky Hill coal mine in the New South Wales Upper Hunter region. A key factor in the win was the mine’s potential impacts on greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.

The once-in-a-generation case was the first time since the Paris Agreement that expert testimony about the global carbon budget and the impacts of burning fossil fuels was heard in a superior jurisdiction court. It was also the first time an Australian court had refused consent to a fossil fuel development partly on the basis of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change impacts.

On behalf of clients Groundswell Gloucester, EDO argued the mine was against the public interest and principles of ecologically sustainable development because of its significant social, environmental and climate change impacts.

The court heard detailed evidence on climate change and the global carbon budget. Around sixty community objectors – including farmers, doctors and Traditional Owners – also gave evidence on the social, cultural and environmental impacts of the mine. 

The court found that carbon emissions from the mine will contribute to global warming. Significantly, it held that it was not important that these emissions would only be a fraction of total global emissions, noting that the problem of climate change needs to be addressed by many local actions. The court also found that the mine’s economic benefits had been substantially overstated.

The NSW Government subsequently announced it would introduce legislation to try to stop authorities from blocking mine developments based on emissions from coal once it is burned. The changes the government proposed included amending the State Environmental Planning Policy (Mining, Petroleum Production and Extractive Industries) to remove the requirement to consider downstream emissions (emissions after coal or gas is sold and burned). It also amended the Environmental Planning & Assessment Act so that planning authorities are prohibited from imposing conditions on developers related to downstream emissions.

The EDO is supporting several challenges to fossil fuel projects backed by state governments. They include action against Clive Palmer’s proposed open-cut and underground thermal coal in Queensland’s Galilee Basin by Youth Verdict, a human rights and climate action group. It is listed for the Queensland land court in May.

Others are questioning the legality of the Burrup Hub liquefied natural gas processing hub in the Pilbara and the Narrabri coal-seam gas development in northern NSW. The EDO is also representing the group Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action in taking on the NSW Environment Protection Authority, accusing it of breaching its statutory duty in failing to have a policy to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

David Morris, the chief executive of the Environment Defenders Office (EDO), says climate litigation based on the idea the government has a role to play in protecting people from climate catastrophe is only going to grow. He compares it to the rising push against the tobacco industry as the health ramifications became undeniable.

“Ten years ago, these sorts of cases seemed wild. People would have thought ‘how can you possibly have a case like that’,” he says. “Now, I think it’s going to become increasingly normal.”

In fact, this webpage, gives you a list of similar actions being taken around the world.

At present the NSW Government is listing as a 'State Significant Development' the extension of the Mount Pleasant Project which seeks to extend the life of the open cut operation by mining deeper coal seams to 22 December 2048. The mining company, a subsidiary of Salim Group, wants to increase coal production to 17mtpa. This would lead to the mine contributing 874 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere during its lifespan and add to already unacceptable levels of air pollution and further erode the social and economic resilience of Muswellbrook, according to Lock the Gate Alliance.

This week, also, newly released meeting minutes reveal that if the Shenhua Watermark coal mine goes ahead, a railway associated with the project would carve through “core koala habitat” where several breeding females have been identified. Failure to release the minutes after the meeting of the Koala Technical Working Group held in July 2020 is a breach of the conditions of consent for the Shenhua project. The minutes have only been released now after complaints by community groups.

Also this week Korean Government-owned KEPCO has launched an appeal against the NSW Land and Environment Court’s decision to uphold the refusal of a huge coal mine in the Bylong Valley. 

The Bylong Valley Protection Alliance (BVPA) has fought against the mine for years, supported with legal advice and representation from the Environmental Defenders Office.

The mine was originally refused by the Independent Planning Commission (IPC) in September 2019, a decision that was upheld by the Land and Environment Court in December 2020.  

KEPCO filed an appeal in the NSW Court of Appeal in March 2021. 

EDO Managing Lawyer Rana Koroglu said on Friday, March 19, 2021: 

“The commission found that this mine should be refused on a number of grounds, including its climate impacts, so it’s very disappointing to see that KEPCO is appealing the Land and Environment Court’s decision.  

“Last year, the Bylong Valley Protection Alliance, represented by the EDO, went to court to win the right to join the appeal and defend the commission’s decision to refuse this mine.  

“Having done that, we argued successfully for the IPC’s refusal of the mine to be upheld.   

“We will be speaking with our clients in the coming days to discuss next steps as they continue to defend the rejection of this mine through the courts.” 

Pittwater Online has run several updates on the coal mine in the Bylong Valley, in fact, Pittwater residents have travelled there in years past to support the locals and sent in reports as well

The Bylong Valley coal mine is a proposed 6.5 million tonnes-per-year open cut and underground thermal coal mine, planned by Korean company KEPCO in an area of the New South Wales central tablelands, known for its scenic beauty and agricultural productivity.     

Acting for the Bylong Valley Protection Alliance, EDO lawyers presented the NSW IPC with independent expert evidence, including on the mine’s climate change impacts. In September 2019, the commission rejected the mine, and found it was contrary to the principles of ecologically sustainable development, citing impacts on climate, groundwater, agricultural land and aesthetic, scenic, heritage and natural values in its Statement of Reasons for the refusal.   

KEPCO applied for judicial review of the decision in December 2019. The community was left on its own to defend the commission’s decision in court, as the commission chose to take no active role in the proceedings. Without the Environmental Defenders Office representing the BVPA, it is likely KEPCO’s challenge would have taken place without any active contradictor.  

The judicial review hearing in the NSW Land and Environment Court took place in August 2020. On December 18th 2020, the Land and Environment Court upheld the commission’s decision to refuse the mine. 

Finally, and don't lose heart because you are surrounded by people who want a cleaner world too and will work to make that happen, Deputy Premier and Minister responsible for resources John Barilaro  announced On Wednesday March 17, 2021 that last year’s airborne electromagnetic survey which covered an area of over 19,000 km2 in Western NSW has revealed significant clues about water and resources hidden up to 400 metres below ground. 

Mr Barilaro said initial findings from the survey are promising and a follow-up magnetic and radiometric survey is planned for the greater Cobar–Nyngan area in May with a second airborne electromagnetic survey to be carried out in Mundi, near Broken Hill from April. 

“This cutting edge technology has delivered readings of potential deposits of minerals including gold, copper and zinc throughout the Central West and what could be untapped groundwater,” Mr Barilaro said.

“We have received positive feedback from the mining industry about the quality of the survey data, with several companies using the information to carry out licenced exploration programs and even a new discovery of mineralisation which was drilled on the basis of the results. We can now consider using the highly-technical data as part of a drilling program to confirm if we have found groundwater, what is in it, as well as how best to access it.”

Mr Barilaro said detailed underground mapping of the Central West and Far West forms part of a $16 million commitment over 10 years to unlocking the potential of the state’s natural resources and attracting investment.

“Mining is critical to the NSW economy, it is responsible for half of our state’s export revenue and despite COVID-19 and other challenges, the sector has remained resilient, continuing to provide direct employment while indirectly supporting local businesses,” Mr Barilaro said.

Mr Barilaro is the same gentleman behind this week's formal publication of the State Environmental Planning Policy (Koala Habitat Protection) 2021, which commenced on Wednesday March 17th 2021. Announced on March 8th, 2021, it means land zoned for farming or forestry will not be subject to the land clearing rules that are designed to protect koala habitat and facilitates logging in these areas.

The statement says; The Minister for Planning will issue a new section 9.1 direction to ensure that only the Minister, and not councils, will be empowered to rezone land used for primary production to an environmental zone, or to rezone land currently in rural zones 1, 2 and 3 to other rural zones

This change will prevent councils from being able to rezone land used for primary production to an environmental zone so that the koalas and other species that live that can continue to exist.  The LLS Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill 2020 had attempted to deal with concerns about the rezoning of primary production land to environmental zone by inserting new provisions for “allowable activity land”. This newly proposed measure is an alternative mechanism that could prevent environmental zones from being used as intended, to protect environmentally sensitive land, including koala habitat. 

Dual consent provisions for Private Native Forestry in local environmental plans will be removed through Koala SEPP 2021”: This is not directly related to Koala SEPP. The LLS Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill had also attempted to do this and is now being examined by an Upper House Inquiry, so this facilitates forwarding that through this policy. There is a PNF Review currently on foot, and this change pre-empts the outcomes of that review. 

Critics state that the NSW Government is not only rewriting the Koala SEPP, but is using it to also implement a number of proposals from the LLS Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill, via this revised Koala SEPP and direct changes to land clearing and private native forestry codes, in order to overcome the scrutiny of the Parliament and despite LLS Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill being the subject of an ongoing Upper House Inquiry.  

Those who have examined this SEPP state it is an underhanded means to progress controversial changes by changing policy and codes, while similar proposals are under consideration by a parliamentary inquiry. 

''It's the death knell for koalas.'' has been the most heard response.

The NSW Farmers Association President James Jackson, in a statement dated November 20, 2020, ''This year has demonstrated that one ill-conceived and poorly drafted planning instrument can instantly strip away farmers’ property rights and destroy their business – this level of sovereign risk is not acceptable in a leading sub-national economy like NSW.  

“Farmers are the front line when it comes to environmental conservation. We stand ready to work to develop a solution to support farmers to take extra steps to look after koalas on their farms – we have consistently said that the NSW Biodiversity Conservation and Land Management framework provides a modern framework to deliver this outcome and we look forward to working with government and all stakeholders to deliver a first world solution early in the new year.” 

Unfortunately most people cannot dislodge the murder of Glen Turner over illegal land clearing, the subsequent repeal of the Native Vegetation Act on August 25, 2017, then legislated  Local Land Services Act 2013 and the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016, and the broad scale land clearing and biodiversity loss that followed. 

A report by the Natural Resources Commission commissioned by the government in January 2019 under an agreement between the Liberals and Nationals to review land clearing if applications exceeded 20,000 hectares a year was only released in March 2020. The commission submitted it to the government in July, but the incumbents released it only after Independent MP Justin Field threatened legal action.

Mr. Field said it was evidence that land management under the NSW Nationals was a catastrophic failure. 

The NRC's under Native Vegetation, 'Land management and biodiversity reforms - Final report', found more than 37,000ha were approved to be cleared in the 2018/2019 period, almost 13 times greater than the annual average rate across the decade to 2016-17. Approvals jumped more than 70% after the rules covering land clearing changed at the start of 2019, rising from 25,247 hectares in the final quarter of 2018 to 43,553 hectares in the first three months of the new year.

The commission found the extent of the land clearing and what is described as “thinning for pasture expansion” was putting the state’s biodiversity at risk. The government had promised to protect between two and four times as much land as it cleared, but has failed to do that in the majority of the state. The report also highlighted the lack of an effective monitoring and compliance regime to ensure laws were enforced. In a six-month stretch between August 2017 and January 2018 there was 7,100ha of unexplained land clearing. It was 60% of the clearing in that time.

A very poor tribute for Mr. Turner and the gentleman who witnessed his murder, fellow environment officer Robert Strange.

It reminds you of the land clearing requirements of the colonial government of 200 years ago and is a kick to the head of everyone volunteering to restore bushland or plant a tree.

This comes atop the Forestry Corporation of NSW (Forestry Corporation) announcing it will recommence 'timber harvesting' on the South Coast and Eden this week and the Natural Resources Commission  announcing on March 12th the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces has requested the Natural Resources Commission through a terms of reference to provide independent, evidence-based advice on forestry operations under the coastal IFOA as the NSW public forest estate recovers from the 2019-20 bushfires.

The statement reads ''The Minister has directed the Commission to provide its advice in confidence and consult with relevant agencies and subject matter experts only.''

The EPA stated on February 16th it had been advised by Forestry Corporation of NSW (Forestry Corporation) they will shortly revert to operating under the standard forestry rules, meaning logging in new compartments will not use special site specific conditions put in place to protect burnt forests, following the 2019/20 bushfires.

The statement said; ''Based on expert advice and the literature, the EPA is of the view that site specific conditions are the most effective way of managing the environmental risks associated with harvesting in landscapes that have been so extensively and severely impacted by fire.''

''FCNSW has now withdrawn from those discussions around logging on the South Coast.''

This was followed by a statement from the EPA that they had fined the Forestry Corporation of NSW (FCNSW) with two penalty notices for allegedly not including the critically endangered Swift Parrot records in planning for operations, and has also delivered three official cautions for an alleged failure by FCNSW to mark-up eucalypt feed trees, an essential source of food for the birds, prior to harvesting.

''The EPA became aware in 2019 that records of the critically endangered Swift Parrot were not included by FCNSW in planning NSW south forestry operations in Boyne, Bodalla and Mogo State forests.

It is alleged that FCNSW had records of Swift Parrots in these forests during the planning of the operations but failed to compile and include them in pre-harvesting surveys, as required.''

FCNSW is authorised by the NSW Government to undertake forestry operations under the Forestry Act 2012.

So, north, and south, the incumbent state government is facilitating the extinction of koalas and all other species that actually live in and because of these trees, so soon after millions of them died in the 2019/2020 bushfires.

Federal Minister Pitt has made statements this week (March 18, 2021) about grants worth millions being made available to those who will drill for gas in the Northern Territory. 

Mr. Pitt said $50 million in grants will be provided through the Beetaloo Cooperative Drilling Program as part of ''Australia’s gas-fired recovery''.

The Beetaloo Cooperative Drilling Program will provide grants of between $750,000 and $7.5 million, up to a total of $50 million, to gas companies to support exploration that occurs before 30 December 2022.

“The Beetaloo Cooperative Drilling Program is part of the Beetaloo Strategic Basin Plan and the Government’s $224 million commitment to the Beetaloo,” Minister Pitt said.

The Beetaloo ideas are also being challenged successfully in courts. It is becoming clearer that citizens of this country want governments at state and federal level to be a lot more clever about how they will get it right. No one wants to see people put under stress as they lose work because the industry they are working in can no longer be supported but, as seen in other industries, if it is not finically viable, and even when propped up by government, factories and plants close overnight and whole communities are cast adrift as no other options have been put in place prior to this occurring.

The 'gas-led recovery' was the target of the September 25th, 2020 School Strike for Climate Change - only this time, thousands of others joined in - nurses, doctors, farmers, indigenous peoples, and students in the #FundOurFutureNotGas day of action. Over 600 powerful, Covid-safe actions took place around Australia.

Nurses at St Vincent's Hospital Sydney - September 2020 SSFCC 

Broome - September 2020 SSFCC 

Broome - September 2020 SSFCC 

On Friday, March 19, 2021 the Minister Ley who is the respondent, along with the incumbent federal government, in this court case announced the Federal Government has signed on as one of the first members of the global Adaptation Action Coalition (AAC).

At the United Nation’s Group of Friends on Adaptation and Resilience meeting in New York this week, Australia announced its support for the AAC’s commitment to practical climate adaptation strategies that deliver on-ground support for vulnerable communities.

“As the driest inhabited continent on earth, Australians understand the importance of adapting to harsh climatic conditions,” Minister Ley said.

“The AAC is an opportunity to share and showcase Australia’s adaptation expertise that is helping to protect ecosystems and World Heritage properties from a changing climate.

"This includes our work to protect the Great Barrier Reef through innovative interventions such using naturally warm-adapted corals to enhance the ability of coral reefs to adapt to future conditions.

“We are investing in world leading strategies through our National Environmental Science Program, which will provide leadership in climate, threatened species and environmental research.”

Australia’s membership of the AAC also builds on the Prime Minister’s commitment to global climate action helping nations in our region support renewable energy deployment and strengthen climate and disaster resilience and Minister Ley’s commitment to the Coalition for Climate Resilient Investment.

Ahead of November’s COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Australia is developing a new National Climate Resilience and Adaptation Strategy to set out a roadmap towards climate resilience.

“At home and abroad, we are committed to building partnerships that drive adaptation to protect and grow our economies, communities and the environment, now and in the future,” Minister Ley said.

“This includes our work to establish Climate and Resilience Services Australia, a new capability that will connect and leverage the Commonwealth’s extensive climate and natural disaster risk information to further prepare for and build resilience to natural disasters.”

It's a pity The Environment is always listed last as her priorities as Australia's Federal Environment Minister and that this announcement was made prior to any National Climate Resilience and Adaptation Strategy being made available to scrutinise. Hopefully the Environment in which they live, and which supports their every breath, becomes more of a priority for the current incumbents soon.

If we here spend a few thousand dollars annually to ensure our Pittwater Spotted Gums are healthy and supporting the community of microbats, birds, insects and other fauna this flora maintains the existence of, imagine of such a 'policy' was taken from the micro to the macro, and instead of thinking the environment is there to be 'harvested' true custodianship took place.

Who can still think that planting saplings will 'offset' the impact of removing mature habitat trees for homes and food, or that 'translocating' koalas to facilitate developers developments is an acceptable practice in 2021? Your government does.

Even at a local level the council imposed on residents, again to facilitate 'scale and (BIG) capacity' developments deems some mature trees of no value and thus people may raze a whole site and all of them so a carport may be built - not of value unless it's your home of course.

When did being responsible custodians for the people of Australia slip from any raison d'etre for an elected representative to being a representative first for 'their mates'? - generations back, when the statesman and stateswoman became a politician instead. The standards have gone, most strikingly with the current incumbents at local, state and federal level who on a daily basis make pronouncements or comments that would have seen them dismissed by the populace moments after making them just one generation or even a few years ago.

This Adaptation Action Coalition idea has been around for a long time - part of its original premise being to help those nations which, although they have contributed the least to climate change due to being undeveloped, are also being impacted the most - think of those islands that are our near neighbours currently losing their homes due to rising waters. The idea is applied elsewhere too. A 2011 World Bank report 'The Adaptation Coalition Toolkit -  Building Community Resilience to Climate Change'. This report represents the culmination of an idea originally proposed by Estanislao Gacitua-Mario who passed away in early 2011.

Measures like early warning systems for storms, investing in flood drainage and drought resistant crops are what is spoken about. The premise inferred there is that too much damage is already done and now it is opportune to try and 'proceed' in a response methodology rather than trying to reverse or repair as greed, personal and in large scale versions, Whitehaven being an example of this, will continue to be what is approved despite objections, despite alternatives, despite what the outcome is known to be.

The Climate Adaptation Summit (CAS) 2021 in February this year launched the Adaptation Action Agenda 2030 and Decade of Action, establishing practical climate adaptation solutions and plans leading to 2030. The Adaptation Action Agenda 2030, which will guide the Decade of Action towards 2030, joins over 50 partners to establish initiatives aimed at concrete actions and partnerships to increase climate resiliency.

The Action Agenda is designed to complement the Sustainable Development Goals and promote progress towards the adaptation and resilience goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change, and encourages partners to collaborate to deploy knowledge tools, technical assistance frameworks, digital innovation, financing solutions, and youth empowerment programmes to support adaptation projects.

Hosted by the Government of the Netherlands and led by former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, CAS 2021 convened virtually. It brought together more than 300 speakers, including over 30 leaders and 20,000 registrations, to accelerate global climate adaptation action by raising ambition, unlocking finance, and leveraging broad-based partnerships. Participants reviewed accomplishments in advancing adaptation since the 2018 creation of the Global Commission on Adaptation (GCA), celebrating the 60 nations which strengthened their national adaptation responses in their updated nationally determined contributions (NDCs).

CAS 2021 opened with a Call to Action from youth in 115 countries asking for a decade of action to combat the causes of climate change and drive climate-resilient development. 

Speaking at the launch event, Ban Ki-moon addressed the young people, stating: “You are the first generation which has never known a world without global warming. It is the moral duty of my generation to give you the space and the means to succeed where we have failed.”

Leaders at the CAS called for accelerated investment in adaptation. According to the UN Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Adaptation Gap Report, developing countries face USD 70 billion in adaptation costs, likely to rise to USD 140 billion – 300 billion by 2030. UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for 50% of the total share of climate finance to be spent on adaptation, stressing that for every Euro spent in climate adaptation projects, 10 Euros worth of climate damage is prevented. 

Also launched during the Summit were the Adaptation Action Coalition, Race to Resilience, and Africa Adaptation Acceleration Program. Developed by the UK in partnership with Egypt, Bangladesh, Malawi, the Netherlands, Saint Lucia, and the UN, the Adaptation Action Coalition is dedicated to converting international political commitments made through the UN Call for Action on Adaptation and Resilience into concrete projects. 

The February 25th 2021 published paper, 'Combating ecosystem collapse from the tropics to the Antarctic', shows major and iconic ecosystems are collapsing across the Australian continent and into Antarctica. These systems sustain life, and evidence of their demise shows we’re exceeding planetary boundaries. An accompanying article published in The Conversation has the title '‘Existential threat to our survival’: see the 19 Australian ecosystems already collapsing''. Run here in February 2021, the article runs below again this Issue.

In September 2020, NABU (BirdLife in Germany) and Boston Consulting Group published the report The Biodiversity Imperative for Business – Preserving the Foundations of our Wellbeing, which highlights that biodiversity provides over US $ 170 trillion in yearly benefits on top of its inherent value, which is at least twice as much as the world’s gross domestic product (GDP), and provides sector-specific recommendations for businesses to integrate biodiversity into their economic decisions and processes.

The Introduction states;

''There is no Planet B''

These were the words the French President Emmanuel Macron used in 2018 as he urged the United States Congress to step up its efforts in combating climate change. They have become a message featured on countless signs held up by striking schoolchildren at Fridays for Future protests. Yet the realization that the Earth’s resources are limited and that we, as a species, can only thrive if nature thrives is not new. As early as 1972, the Club of Rome warned of the consequences unsustainable development would have for our environment; that same year marked the beginning of international environmental politics with the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm.

 Over the last six decades, the Earth has changed more rapidly than at any other time in history. Striving to meet the growing demands of a globally connected population at the lowest possible cost, we have tolerated the rising pollution and exploitation of the environment. Now the prospect of the Earth overheating and biodiversity declining has gone from being a warning issued by scientists to real-life events we witness every day—which constantly present new challenges to our economy and societies. With every animal and plant species that is lost (often even unnoticed), we risk destabilizing the planet’s ecosystems—and with them, the foundations of economic activity and the livelihoods of future generations. In recent years, biodiversity loss has rapidly moved up the agendas of global decision-makers to become one of their major concerns, along with climate change. Now is the time to turn insights and targets into real progress.

The preservation and restoration of biodiversity are the cornerstones of a sustainable and resilient world. Biodiversity is our greatest ally in the battle against the climate crisis and provides us with essential services free of charge: Peatlands and seagrass beds capture and store greenhouse gases; species-rich forests help retain precious rainwater in the landscape; restored rivers can slow down flood surges. A wealth of diversity in the natural world also makes it possible for us to produce food, clothing, and medication. The more biodiversity thrives, the better for our lives – and for the economy. After all, most sectors are heavily reliant on the services and natural resources biodiversity offers.

What so many are saying to those elected to represent us is that it is time that they did - represent us, not their 'mates'. 

What so many are saying to those elected to represent us is it is time to reverse and repair - not make plans simply to 'adapt' to facilitate and further the economic greed of a few at the cost of everyone and everything.

What so many are saying to those elected to represent us is;  You made the mess - now clean it up!

The ideation that privileges humans above other species, and the planet as a whole, is unacceptable today - in fact, it was never acceptable and sprang then, as now, from a greed agenda to enrich the few, again, at the cost of everything else.

Today, Sunday March 21st 2021 there are two protests that directly apply to people here - one is happening in town and a call to save koalas, now 'effectively extinct' in Pittwater. The other is happening in the Village Park in Mona Vale to register residents opposition to a state and council decree that Pittwater suburbs and villages pick up the tab for increased housing supply (facilitate/further), especially at Mona Vale (high density), Ingleside and Narrabeen (ditto) and points north can become medium density centres - Newport, Avalon - perhaps even whack in a new style Commodore Units in Palm Beach as well.

First mooted in May 1960 this edifice is still spoken about as being among a string of 'developments' passed by the then milking/siphoning what it could from Pittwater to spend elsewhere Warringah Shire Council, that included excising and selling parts of public land to facilitate such attractive blocks of 'architecture' and culminated in the April 1967 dismissal of this council by the Askin State Government. The Councillors involved, Dennis Thomas and George Knight, were prosecuted under the Secret Commissions Prohibition Act 1919 (NSW) for receiving bribes from a development company to influence planning and development decisions, and both received gaol sentences.



The next local council elections are scheduled to be held on Saturday, September 4th 2021 for the election of councillors.

The next Australian federal election will be held in or before 2022 to elect members of the 47th Parliament of Australia. All 151 seats in the House of Representatives (lower house) and 40 of the 76 seats in the Senate (upper house) will be up for election.

The next New South Wales state election is scheduled to be held on Saturday March 25th 2023 to elect the 58th Parliament of New South Wales, including all 93 seats in the Legislative Assembly and 21 of the 42 seats in the Legislative Council. 

This time it may be worth applying another age old adage to those who announce their candidature along with their promises;

By their fruits (deeds) you will know them...

Fortunate we don't get shot for being the gender protesting against being raped, murdered and the perpetuation of endemic misogynism ('it's only boys mucking about')? Facilitating Bills to ensure media billionaires get more millions and an attempt to quash independent news services making available 'inconvenient and uncomfortable truths'? Pouring millions of our taxed dollars into industries that will kill us, all the other sentient beings, and the planet?

Fortunate we don't have any effective opposition parties who can articulate a way forward that goes in any other directions?

By your words, and deeds, we have come to know you.

Enough is enough - we will NOT go quietly into that long good night, nor allow this place and its wildlife and all its plantlife to go too.

Further: (also running this Issue) -

Forest Harvesting To Recommence On South Coast And Eden

March 15, 2021: Forestry Corporation of NSW Media Release
Forestry Corporation of NSW (Forestry Corporation) will recommence renewable timber harvesting on the South Coast and Eden this week with additional environmental safeguards in place to ensure our commitment to sustainable forest management.

Daniel Tuan, Forestry Corporation’s General Manager of Hardwood Forests, said the recommencement of harvesting would allow the timber industry on the South Coast and Eden to stay in business following the 2019-2020 bushfires and avert job losses in local communities.

Mr Tuan said Forestry Corporation worked constructively with the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) for the last 16 months to negotiate site-specific operating conditions for each harvesting operation in bushfire-affected coastal forests.

But no site specific operating conditions had been issued since mid last year and the industry has exhausted its log stocks and opportunities for harvesting on private property.

As a result, renewable timber harvesting on the South Coast and Eden will take place with additional environmental safeguards to further minimise any risks to fire-affected forests and supply much-needed timber to local industry. These new rules are above and beyond the existing Coastal Integrated Forestry Operations Approval (CIFOA), which prescribes protections for wildlife, soil and water and enables sustainable timber to be produced and the trees regrown..

Forestry Corporation’s operations are independently audited by the EPA to assure compliance with the CIFOA regulations.

The additional environmental safeguards put in place in recognition of the impacts of the 2019-2020 bushfires, include additional searching for plants and animals, retaining a greater number of hollow bearing trees and increasing the area of land to be excluded from harvesting.

“We believe these additional environmental safeguards provide the right balance which Forestry Corporation is required to strike between environmental considerations; the need to support the regional communities reliant on timber industry jobs; and meet its supply commitments with small family businesses and key local mills,” Mr Tuan said.

“We have put in place robust operating procedures to manage compliance with the additional safeguards and we will share the outcomes with the EPA. The EPA has also indicated that it will step up its oversight of our operations.” Mr Tuan said.

Plans are being prepared for four operations on the South Coast and Eden and these will be available on our website once approved. These initial forests include Nadgee, Mogo, Yambulla and Shallow Crossing.

“Forestry Corporation is open and transparent with the community publishing plans for all native forest operations on its website. Interested community members can subscribe to these plans and get alerted of any updates.

Operations will be conducted under this interim arrangement until the results of the review by the National Resources Commission, due later in 2021, are available. Forestry Corporation is actively participating in this review.

Timber is the most renewable building product available and on the South Coast and Eden is harvested and processed by a range of local businesses into a range of products including poles, bridge decking, floorboards, decking, fencing, landscaping timbers, pallets, and a range of other products that communities use and need, creating ongoing employment in the region.

Information about the locations of our operations is available via our Plan Portal at

Also In 2021:
Forestry Corporation Fined $33K For Failing To Keep Records, Endangering Parrots

March 1st 2021
The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has issued Forestry Corporation of NSW (FCNSW) with two penalty notices for allegedly not including the critically endangered Swift Parrot records in planning for operations, and has also delivered three official cautions for an alleged failure by FCNSW to mark-up eucalypt feed trees, an essential source of food for the birds, prior to harvesting.

The EPA became aware in 2019 that records of the critically endangered Swift Parrot were not included by FCNSW in planning NSW south forestry operations in Boyne, Bodalla and Mogo State forests.

It is alleged that FCNSW had records of Swift Parrots in these forests during the planning of the operations but failed to compile and include them in pre-harvesting surveys, as required.

EPA Executive Director of Regional Operations Carmen Dwyer said the failure to consider all available records during the planning phases of forestry harvesting operations could result in environmental harm and potential impacts on threatened species.

“The harvest and haul plans for the three operations confirm the Swift Parrot records were not considered and therefore the marking and retention of eucalypt feed trees did not occur either.

“The Swift Parrot is on the Commonwealth’s critically endangered list and as the state’s environmental regulator, we are focused on protecting species that depend on the forest for their survival.”

Ms Dwyer said the EPA takes forestry offences seriously and investigates all alleged breaches.

“It is our duty to ensure forestry operations adhere to the standards and rules required and the EPA will not hesitate to take action if breaches are identified.”

The EPA has issued FCNSW with a $16,500 penalty for each of the two breaches.

Penalty notices are one of a number of tools the EPA can use to achieve environmental compliance including formal warnings, official cautions, licence conditions, notices and directions and prosecutions.

For more information about the EPA’s regulatory tools, see the EPA Compliance Policy on the EPA website.

Forestry Corporation Fined For Failing To Mark Out A Prohibited Logging Zone

February 26 2021
The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has issued two penalty notices and one official caution to Forestry Corporation of NSW (FCNSW) for allegedly contravening regulatory requirements, in the Ballengarra State Forest in the mid north coast of NSW.

EPA Officers conducting inspections of the area following a harvesting operation identified 10 freshly cut mature trees within the hard and soft protection zones of a second order stream; a significant amount of debris pushed into a stream bed; and evidence of machine access, and earthworks caused by harvesting machinery within a protected zone.

EPA Executive Director of Regional Operations Carmen Dwyer said riparian zones, important areas directly adjacent to streams and waterways, had boundaries around them to prevent waters and dependent aquatic animal and plant life from being polluted or affected during harvesting operations.

“By failing to mark up the physical protection zone boundary in the field, FCNSW contravened a condition of the Integrated Forestry Operations Approval for the area where they were operating west of Port Macquarie,” Ms Dwyer said. 

“Riparian zones must be marked up prior to an operation commencing, so they are identifiable and protected from logging operations. This failure to correctly mark the location resulted, in turn, in further contraventions.”

The EPA has issued FCNSW with a total penalty of $30,000, comprising $15,000 for two breaches and an official caution for a subsequent breach.

Ms Dwyer said the EPA takes forestry offences seriously and investigates all alleged breaches.

“The EPA actively monitors forestry operations at all stages of logging operations – pre, post and during harvesting,” Ms Dwyer said.

“As the state’s environmental regulator, we are focused on ensuring forestry operations adhere to the standards required and will not hesitate to take action if breaches are identified.”

Penalty notices are one of several tools the EPA can use to achieve environmental compliance including formal warnings, stop work orders, official cautions, licence conditions, notices and directions and prosecutions.

For more information about the EPA’s regulatory tools, see the EPA Compliance Policy on the EPA website.

EPA Statement - Update On Forestry Regulation

February 16 2021
The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has been advised by Forestry Corporation of NSW (FCNSW) that they will shortly revert to operating under the standard forestry rules, meaning logging in new compartments will not use special site specific conditions put in place to protect burnt forests, following the 2019/20 bushfires.

Based on expert advice and the literature, the EPA is of the view that site specific conditions are the most effective way of managing the environmental risks associated with harvesting in landscapes that have been so extensively and severely impacted by fire.

The EPA has been working to negotiate updated site specific conditions based on current knowledge of the impact of the fires, and to identify and implement a long-term approach to manage the risks posed by timber harvesting in the post-fire landscapes of coastal NSW.

FCNSW has now withdrawn from those discussions around logging on the South Coast.

The EPA expects to receive advice from FCNSW regarding additional voluntary measures they intend to apply to manage the impacts of logging operations. These will not be enforceable by the EPA under the current rules.

The EPA’s site specific conditions previously applied in addition to the Integrated Forestry Operations Approvals (IFOA), maximise the protection of unburnt or lightly burnt forest and limit harvesting intensity to assist wildlife and biodiversity recovery efforts.

Designed following consultation with experts and government agencies, they aim to mitigate the environmental risks caused by the bushfires and are tailored for the specific impacts on plants, animals and their habitats, soils and waterways at each site.

The EPA has been working with FCNSW to ensure these controls are implemented and effective. 

The EPA has increased its regulatory presence on the ground at all stages of logging operations and is working closely with community, industry, Aboriginal and environment groups, concerned about the impact of logging on the environment, their communities and their regional economies.

In response to the decision of FCNSW, the EPA will further increase its regulatory oversight of future logging operations.

The EPA has a statutory objective to protect, restore and enhance the quality of the environment in NSW having regard to the need to maintain ecologically sustainable development. Where the EPA identifies non-compliance, it will take appropriate regulatory action.

FCNSW is authorised by the NSW Government to undertake forestry operations under the Forestry Act 2012, and must comply with the IFOA rules.

Darling River ecology 'extinct' and Murray cod 'in real trouble', warns expert Dr Stuart Rowland by Sean Murphy. March 13, 2021 - ABC News 

British foreign minister explains why Scott Morrison's climate invitation was withdrawn by Europe correspondent Linton Besser in London. March 19, 2021 - ABC News

Bangalley Head - Careel House Koala Loves Music: 1937 - NB: The Koala DID NOT WANT TO GO - Also Worth Noting - THERE WAS A FOOD TREE FOR IT AT THIS PLACE

Koala Visits Guest House

A koala bear last night paid a visit to Careel House, Whale Beach, near Avalon. In answer to persistent knocking shortly after 7 o'clock, the front door was opened, and guests were surprised to find the koala outside. Without inducement the animal entered the lounge, and immediately made itself at ease on one of the chairs. The picture above shows the bear quite at home on top of the piano, which is being played by a guest. 

Mrs. C. B. Grieve, the proprietress, obtained a bunch of gum leaves, which the bear ate, unperturbed by the pattings and pettings of its admirers. Twice the "intruder" was placed on the terrace so that it might return to the gum trees which surround the house, but twice it demanded re-admittance. After a "visit" of nearly three hours, the bear consented to leave. KOALA LIKES MUSIC (1937, October 25). The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW : 1931 - 1954), p. 2. Retrieved from

"KOALA AN ASSET."  Plea for Preservation.

Two of five koalas injured in bush fires at Newport on Saturday have died from exhaustion. The three bears which remain are being treated at Koala Park. The secretary of the Koala Club of Australia. Mr. Frank L. Edwards, said yesterday that, during 1937 and 1938, the club had participated in the rescue of nine maimed bears from the Pittwater district.

"At this rate," he added, "the animals will vanish from that district in three or four years. As there are not 200 of them left in New South Wales, this is a tragedy. Koalas, one of our best animal assets, are allowed to stray to their rapid destruction, as in the Pittwater district while the law requires that other stock be paddocked.

"If we lose them." Mr Edwards added, "twould be of little use to talk of stocking up with koalas from elsewhere. The States are  already refusing to transfer koalas and, In any case, the Queensland and Victorian native bear's are different types from ours." "KOALA AN ASSET.". (1939, January 17). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 10. Retrieved from

A Naturalist's Notebook. By M. S. R. Sharland.

The 'possums, in their different forms, are so widely distributed that they may in all truth be said to be the commonest of our wild animals. Brush-tail, ring-tail, and "flying squirrel" occur just as freely in and adjacent to the cities as in deep forests and open bushlands, though being nocturnal they seldom force themselves upon our notice.

Scattered throughout the State are districts which might well be termed strong-holds of wild life, where native animals are still plentiful. These places are not necessarily remote from towns or cities, not quite often close to them, and one I have in mind, and one of the most interesting of its kind, is the area of well wooded hills overlooking Pittwater and the sea, behind Avalon Beach, A friend muted me there for the week-end recently, and It happened to be a time when the moon was past the full, but for all that seemed to yield a more brilliant light, and rarely have I seen the bush so crisp and ornamental as on this night of sparkling luminosity.

What a lot of beauty we miss at night by living in cities. And what a lot of fascinating life moves beyond our ken under cover of darkness, the presence of which we suspect and only rarely see. Creatures whose ways and movements are shielded beneath the shadows of night nave a peculiar attraction, probably because human beings, not having "night eyes”, can never really understand them and something that we can't quite master is always attractive.

The stately spotted gums and wattles in front of the cottage yielded the sight of “flying squirrels" moving actively up and down the branches and parachuting from one tree to another as fancy took them. Ringtails also tenanted the trees. But the larger brush-tailed varieties came boldly over the ground and climbed a stump where their human friends had placed some food. I did not have the good fortune to see a native bear, but the koala is well known here, and, in fact, one came to the cottage the night after I had left. Avalon is one of the few remaining places where the koala can be seen in the wild state. It must be rigorously protected here, and would-be captors or destroyers kept away with flaming sword. The residents and regular week-end visitors are justly proud of the richness of the district's fauna, and thus are the best kind of "rangers."

Mr. A. J. Small, of Martin Place, recently told me two curious stories about possums, each of which had also to do with a cat. I had never heard of a possum doing battle with a cat, though the larger kinds are pugnacious enough. At any rate, Mr. Small told me that his cat at Avalon Beach had a fight with a possum and apparently came off worst, as the side of its face was badly torn by the possum's claws. The wound turned septic and caused a lot of trouble. In this case the cat probably attacked the possum, which retaliated to good effect.

The other story concerned a possum at Mr. Small's home at Wollstonecraft. He went out the back door one day and was surprised to see in broad daylight a possum and a cat sharing a plate of bones on the door mat. Neither animal showed any resentment of the other's presence. Mr. Small blames possums for making a mess of garbage tins, which they visit at night in search of food. From: The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), Saturday 15 March 1941, page 11

RESIDENTS of Palm Beach Peninsula are concerned about their colony of koalas—they have, or had, about 60. Some of them think they are in danger of losing them and are holding a meeting at Avalon Beach public school on August 14 to discuss means for their  preservation. There is, I understand, some difference of opinion, as to whether the koalas will continue to thrive on the Peninsula now that so many humans have taken to the spot. Koalas are fastidious animals. There seems to be plenty of the right trees for them at Kuring-gai Chase, for instance, but to be on the safe side the Trust is planting another 3,000 trees for the koalas to feed on in the future. COLUMN 8 (1953, August 11). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), , p. 1. Retrieved from 

Believe koalas being stolen
SYDNEY (by teleprinter) — Palm Beach, Newport, and Avalon residents believe that koalas are being stolen from the bush near their homes. They have formed a vigilance committee to search taxis, cars, and utilities for stolen koalas. Avalon storekeeper W. J. McDonald, who called a meeting of local residents this week, said last night: 'More than 20 bears have been stolen recently. 'There are now fewer than 60 bears in this area.’ Believe koalas being stolen (1953, August 17). The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 - 1954), p. 3. Retrieved from

Above Photograph: 'Avalon - NSW - Koala bear in oak tree on lawn at Noah's house' - 652 Barrenjoey Rd. From album of Photographs taken by Jack Thwaites, largely in Tasmania. The images include bushwalking trips, wilderness scenery, flora and fauna, coastal scenery and historic buildings in Tasmania. Retrieved from and with thanks to the Archives Office of Tasmania - archival record No.: NS3195_1_2555


Sydney: A stormy public meeting at Avalon Beach School decided that local residents would arrest any-body seen taking koala bears from their peninsula. The chairman of the meeting (Mr. McDonald) said several residents from the Palm Beach. Avalon, Newport and Mona Vale areas (outer Sydney suburbs) gave evidence of people arriving in cars, taxis and utilities to take koalas from the peninsula.

"We've formed a protective committee. News of our campaign will be spread and any resident who sees a stranger taking away our koalas will immediately inform the protective committee." he said. "We'll arrest and hold these people ourselves until police action is taken." PROTECTION OF KOALAS (1953, August 18). Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, NSW : 1888 - 1954), , p. 4. Retrieved from

'Existential threat to our survival': see the 19 Australian ecosystems already collapsing

Dana M BergstromUniversity of WollongongEuan RitchieDeakin UniversityLesley HughesMacquarie University, and Michael DepledgeUniversity of Exeter

In 1992, 1,700 scientists warned that human beings and the natural world were “on a collision course”. Seventeen years later, scientists described planetary boundaries within which humans and other life could have a “safe space to operate”. These are environmental thresholds, such as the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and changes in land use.

Crossing such boundaries was considered a risk that would cause environmental changes so profound, they genuinely posed an existential threat to humanity.

This grave reality is what our major research paper, published today, confronts.

In what may be the most comprehensive evaluation of the environmental state of play in Australia, we show major and iconic ecosystems are collapsing across the continent and into Antarctica. These systems sustain life, and evidence of their demise shows we’re exceeding planetary boundaries.

We found 19 Australian ecosystems met our criteria to be classified as “collapsing”. This includes the arid interior, savannas and mangroves of northern Australia, the Great Barrier ReefShark Bay, southern Australia’s kelp and alpine ash forests, tundra on Macquarie Island, and moss beds in Antarctica.

We define collapse as the state where ecosystems have changed in a substantial, negative way from their original state – such as species or habitat loss, or reduced vegetation or coral cover – and are unlikely to recover.

bleached coral
The Great Barrier Reef has suffered consecutive mass bleaching events, causing swathes of coral to die. Shutterstock

The Good And Bad News

Ecosystems consist of living and non-living components, and their interactions. They work like a super-complex engine: when some components are removed or stop working, knock-on consequences can lead to system failure.

Our study is based on measured data and observations, not modelling or predictions for the future. Encouragingly, not all ecosystems we examined have collapsed across their entire range. We still have, for instance, some intact reefs on the Great Barrier Reef, especially in deeper waters. And northern Australia has some of the most intact and least-modified stretches of savanna woodlands on Earth.

Read more: Worried about Earth's future? Well, the outlook is worse than even scientists can grasp

Still, collapses are happening, including in regions critical for growing food. This includes the Murray-Darling Basin, which covers around 14% of Australia’s landmass. Its rivers and other freshwater systems support more than 30% of Australia’s food production.

The effects of floods, fires, heatwaves and storms do not stop at farm gates; they’re felt equally in agricultural areas and natural ecosystems. We shouldn’t forget how towns ran out of drinking water during the recent drought.

Read more: Logging must stop in Melbourne's biggest water supply catchment

Drinking water is also at risk when ecosystems collapse in our water catchments. In Victoria, for example, the degradation of giant Mountain Ash forests greatly reduces the amount of water flowing through the Thompson catchment, threatening nearly five million people’s drinking water in Melbourne.

This is a dire wake-up call — not just a warning. Put bluntly, current changes across the continent, and their potential outcomes, pose an existential threat to our survival, and other life we share environments with.

A burnt pencil pine
A burnt pencil pine, one of the world’s oldest species. These ‘living fossils’ in Tasmania’s World Heritage Area are unlikely to recover after fire. Aimee BlissAuthor provided

In investigating patterns of collapse, we found most ecosystems experience multiple, concurrent pressures from both global climate change and regional human impacts (such as land clearing). Pressures are often additive and extreme.

Take the last 11 years in Western Australia as an example.

In the summer of 2010 and 2011, a heatwave spanning more than 300,000 square kilometres ravaged both marine and land ecosystems. The extreme heat devastated forests and woodlands, kelp forests, seagrass meadows and coral reefs. This catastrophe was followed by two cyclones.

A record-breaking, marine heatwave in late 2019 dealt a further blow. And another marine heatwave is predicted for this April.

These 19 Ecosystems Are Collapsing: Read About Each

What To Do About It?

Our brains trust comprises 38 experts from 21 universities, CSIRO and the federal Department of Agriculture Water and Environment. Beyond quantifying and reporting more doom and gloom, we asked the question: what can be done?

We devised a simple but tractable scheme called the 3As:

  • Awareness of what is important

  • Anticipation of what is coming down the line

  • Action to stop the pressures or deal with impacts.

In our paper, we identify positive actions to help protect or restore ecosystems. Many are already happening. In some cases, ecosystems might be better left to recover by themselves, such as coral after a cyclone.

In other cases, active human intervention will be required – for example, placing artificial nesting boxes for Carnaby’s black cockatoos in areas where old trees have been removed.

Two black cockatoos on a tree branch
Artificial nesting boxes for birds such as the Carnaby’s black cockatoo are important interventions. Shutterstock

“Future-ready” actions are also vital. This includes reinstating cultural burning practices, which have multiple values and benefits for Aboriginal communities and can help minimise the risk and strength of bushfires.

It might also include replanting banks along the Murray River with species better suited to warmer conditions.

Some actions may be small and localised, but have substantial positive benefits.

For example, billions of migrating Bogong moths, the main summer food for critically endangered mountain pygmy possums, have not arrived in their typical numbers in Australian alpine regions in recent years. This was further exacerbated by the 2019-20 fires. Brilliantly, Zoos Victoria anticipated this pressure and developed supplementary food — Bogong bikkies.

Read more: Looks like an ANZAC biscuit, tastes like a protein bar: Bogong Bikkies help mountain pygmy-possums after fire

Other more challenging, global or large-scale actions must address the root cause of environmental threats, such as human population growth and per-capita consumption of environmental resources.

We must rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero, remove or suppress invasive species such as feral cats and buffel grass, and stop widespread land clearing and other forms of habitat destruction.

Our Lives Depend On It

The multiple ecosystem collapses we have documented in Australia are a harbinger for environments globally.

The simplicity of the 3As is to show people can do something positive, either at the local level of a landcare group, or at the level of government departments and conservation agencies.

Our lives and those of our children, as well as our economies, societies and cultures, depend on it.

We simply cannot afford any further delay.

Read more: Australia, you have unfinished business. It's time to let our 'fire people' care for this land The Conversation

Dana M Bergstrom, Principal Research Scientist, University of WollongongEuan Ritchie, Professor in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, Centre for Integrative Ecology, School of Life & Environmental Sciences, Deakin UniversityLesley Hughes, Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, and Michael Depledge, Professor and Chair, Environment and Human Health, University of Exeter

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Wake up, Mr Morrison: Australia's slack climate effort leaves our children 10 times more work to do

Dan Himbrechts/AAP
Lesley HughesMacquarie UniversityJohn HewsonCrawford School of Public Policy, Australian National UniversityMalte MeinshausenThe University of Melbourne, and Will SteffenAustralian National University

There is much at stake at the highly anticipated United Nations climate summit in Glasgow this November. There, almost 200 nations signed up to the Paris Agreement will make emissions reduction pledges as part of the international effort to avoid catastrophic climate change.

Many countries recognise the urgent task at hand. Ahead of the meeting, more than 110 governments have already pledged to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. So where is Australia in terms of global ambition?

We, some of Australia’s most senior climate change scientists and policymakers, have come together to address these and other pressing questions, informed by sound science and policy.

Our report, released today, pinpoints the emissions reduction burden Australians will bear in future decades if our Paris targets are not increased. Alarmingly, people living in the 2030s and 2040s could be forced to reduce emissions by ten times as much as people this decade, if Australia is to keep within its 2℃ “carbon budget”.

Girl in mask raises fist at climate rally
Without policy change, people living in coming decades will have to reduce emissions by far more than the current rate. Dean Lewins/AAP

‘Manifestly Inadequate’

A “carbon budget” identifies how much carbon dioxide (CO₂) the world can emit if it’s to limit global temperature rise to internationally agreed goals. Those goals include keeping warming to well below 2℃ – and preferably below 1.5℃ – this century.

National emissions reduction targets are key to staying within a carbon budget. Australia’s target, under the Paris Agreement, is a 26-28% reduction between 2005 and 2030.

In a report released in January, we showed how that target is manifestly inadequate. To remain within its 2°C carbon budget, Australia must cut emissions by 50% between 2005 and 2030, and reach net-zero emissions by 2045.

To remain inside the 1.5°C budget, we must reduce emissions by 74% between 2005 and 2030, and reach net zero emissions by 2035.

Since that report was released, the Australian government has doubled down on its 2030 target. But Prime Minister Scott Morrison appears to be inching closer to a net-zero commitment. Last month he declared his government’s goal was “to reach net-zero emissions as soon as possible, and preferably by 2050”.

Our latest report set out to determine how the burden of emissions reduction would be spread after 2030 if Australia’s 2030 target is not increased.

Read more: Scott Morrison has embraced net-zero emissions – now it's time to walk the talk

Smoke stacks sends emissions to the sky.
The Morrison government is sticking with its inadequate Paris pledge. Shutterstock

What We Found

Our analysis used the methodology adopted by the Climate Change Authority. This statutory body was established by the Gillard Labor government in 2012, and was charged with providing independent expert policy advice.

In 2014, the authority identified the level of climate ambition required for Australia to do its fair share in the global effort. It recommended a 30% emissions reduction between 2000 and 2025, reaching 40-60% by 2030.

But the Abbott Coalition government ignored this advice. Instead, it pledged the far weaker target of 26-28% emissions reduction.

We wanted to determine what happens if Australia sticks to that inadequate target – and so delays substantive climate action until later decades.

To meet the weak Paris target, Australia need only reduce emissions by 1.2% each year from 2020 to 2030. If Australia persists with this target but still decides to stay inside the 2℃ carbon budget, that leaves just 1,329 million tonnes of greenhouse gases we can emit after 2030.

Keeping to this limit would be extremely challenging. If done in a straight-line trajectory, it would mean a 12.9% cut in emissions each year from 2030, until net-zero emissions were reached in 2037.

This represents an annual challenge ten times greater than what’s needed in each year this decade to meet the current 2030 goals. It would require an annual emissions reduction of 66.8 million tonnes of greenhouse gases – more than every car and light commercial vehicle on Australia’s roads emits in a year.

Author provided/The ConversationCC BY-ND

Second, we looked at the emissions trajectory if Australia was to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, while still keeping the inadequate 2030 Paris targets. We found people living in the 2030s and 2040s would have to reduce emissions by three times more than what’s required this decade.

Emissions include land-use, landuse change and forestry emissions. A drop in widespread land clearing creates the impression of overall reduced emissions. But underlying fossil fuel and industrial emissions have steadily increased since the 1990s - with the exception of brief moments when Australia had an effective price on carbon. Author provided/The ConversationCC BY-ND

Clearly, the inadequate 2030 target is the source of the problem. By requiring very little emissions reduction this decade, the Morrison government is kicking the climate can down the road for our children to pick up. It means Australia is also failing on its moral obligation to do its fair share in the global climate effort.

Australia Trails The World

This sad state of affairs is not news to the rest of the world. Australia is widely viewed as an international climate laggard. In the 2020 Climate Change Performance Index, it received the lowest rating of 57 countries and the European Union. It also ranked second-worst on climate action, out of 177 countries, in the 2020 UN Sustainable Development Report.

The Glasgow climate summit, known as the 26th Conference of the Parties or COP26, seeks to hold governments to account for their climate pledges. Nations are expected to front up with ambitious short-term plans for emissions reduction.

Many nations have risen to the challenge. Countries to adopt a target of net-zero by 2050 include the United StatesJapanSouth Korea and the European UnionChina will aim to achieve this target by 2060.

Even more importantly, some governments have ramped up their 2030 targets. For example the European Union will now reduce emissions by 55% and the United Kingdom by 68% – both on 1990 levels.

Read more: Biden’s Senate majority doesn't just super-charge US climate action, it blazes a trail for Australia

Under President Joe Biden, the US will work towards net-zero emissions by 2050. Carolyn Kaster/AP/AAP

A Critical Decade

The importance of COP26 cannot be overstated. Under current global pledges, an average temperature rise of 3℃ or more is distinctly possible this century. This increases the risk of abrupt and irreversible changes in the Earth’s climate system - known as tipping points - bringing disastrous consequences for both human and natural systems.

The Morrison government is failing to protect Australia from this devastating future. It’s also ignoring a major economic opportunity that should - in a rational country - bring all sides of politics together.

Over the past decade, renewable energy costs have plummeted and significant advances have been made in electric vehicles and regenerative agriculture. This opens up vast new opportunities for Australia.

These days, few in the federal Coalition would deny climate science outright. But the government’s softer form of denial – failing to grasp the need for urgent action – will have the same tragic outcome.

Read more: Against the odds, South Australia is a renewable energy powerhouse. How on Earth did they do it? The Conversation

Lesley Hughes, Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie UniversityJohn Hewson, Professor and Chair, Tax and Transfer Policy Institute, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National UniversityMalte Meinshausen, A/Prof., School of Earth Sciences, The University of Melbourne, and Will Steffen, Emeritus Professor, Fenner School of Environment & Society, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.