Communities, including First Nations voices, need to be involved in decision-making about new renewable energy and resources developments to protect biodiversity and cultural values, says Rachel Morgain, deputy director of Melbourne Biodiversity Institute.
She says otherwise there is a risk to nature given the land most accessible to government for infrastructure development are often in biodiversity hotspots, such as some world heritage areas.
“We need to collectively come together across sectors and across places to make sure that the infrastructure is growing quickly, but in the right places and with social licence,” Morgain says.
Morgain was speaking at the opening panel at the Climate Futures Summit at the University of Melbourne on Tuesday 10 October.
She says the Melbourne Biodiversity Institute is working together with the Melbourne Energy Institute to start doing the regional planning to spatially map cultural and biodiversity values alongside climate risks to find the best places for energy infrastructure.
Australians care about protecting biodiversity across all demographics and across rural, regional and urban areas, Morgain says.
While there’s work to be done to help people understand the scale of the crisis, she says there’s no question that people care about nature.
A survey published by the Biodiversity Council (of which Morgain is an author) shows 97% of Australians want more action to conserve biodiversity, and consider that every person and every level of government has a responsibility to act.
The survey involved more than 4000 participants across Australia and selected to be representative of age, gender and location based on census data.
A majority (58%) believe ‘a great deal more action’ is required.
More than 4 in 5 respondents (85%) are at least moderately concerned about biodiversity threats such as waste and pollution, land clearing, climate change and the loss of key species.
The survey also shows a majority say conservation issues will determine their vote in future elections, want more money spent to protect the environment and support new policies designed to preserve and restore nature.