Scientists have largely welcomed the Government’s Threatened Species Action Plan unveiled today, but say the funding announced with the program isn’t nearly enough.
The Minister for the Environment and Water, Tanya Plibersek released its Threatened Species Action Plan: Towards Zero Extinctions – which sets out a pathway for threatened species conservation and recovery for the next decade.
But the government has only committed to spending $224.5 million on the Saving Native Species Program over an unspecified time, nowhere close to the $1.69 billion per year that researchers have estimated is actually needed to recover Australia’s listed threatened species.
The need for immediate and decisive action to protect Australia’s animals, plants, and ecosystemswas highlighted by the 2021 State of the Environment report released in July.
This new Action Plan sets out targets to be reached by 2032, including “preventing any new extinctions of plants and animals” and protecting and conserving at least 30% of Australia’s land mass and 30% of our oceans.
Plibersek says: “Australia is the mammal extinction capital of the world . The Threatened Species Action Plan strengthens our commitment to stopping the extinction of Australia’s plants and animals.
“These are the strongest targets we’ve ever seen.
“Based on input from researchers and experts from the community, this plan identifies 20 priority places and 110 priority species and will guide recovery actions that will benefit a broad range of threatened species and their habitats,” says Plibersek.
It supersedes the 2021-2031 Threatened Species Strategy, which identified 100 priority threatened species and 20 priority places, to help prioritise action and investment in conservation.
“Our current approach has not been working. If we keep doing what we’ve been doing, we’ll keep getting the same results.
“The need for action has never been greater. I will not shy away from difficult problems or accept environmental decline and extinction as inevitable.”
Today I launched our Threatened Species Action Plan: Towards Zero Extinctions.— Tanya Plibersek (@tanya_plibersek) October 4, 2022
The plan sets out strong targets for threatened species conservation and recovery over the next 10 years. pic.twitter.com/Qg2T9jngPD
The new Action Plan recognises and aims to increase the involvement of First Nations Peoples in the management and recovery and threatened species and ecological communities. Other key objectives over the next ten years include reducing the risk of extinction for all priority species and improving the condition for all priority places.
But many scientists say the $224.5 million allocated is well short of what’s actually needed to make significant, substantial gains.
Euan Ritchie, Professor of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation at Deakin University, says unless more money is forthcoming, the plan will fail.
“They have a goal of zero new extinctions, which is admirable, but it’s highly unlikely that’s achievable unless we have very large increases in spending on conservation and recovery of threatened species and ecosystems,” Ritchie told Cosmos.
“$1.69 billion might sound like a lot to some people, but as a proportion of the total Australian budget it is tiny.”
To put that amount in context, according to research released earlier this year Australia’s fossil fuel subsidies cost $11.6 billion in 2021-22 across all federal, state and territory governments.
Brendan Wintle, Professor in Conservation Ecology at the University of Melbourne, and first author of the 2019 study on Australia’s conservation funding, says the strategy does not go far enough.
“Australia has around 1850 species listed under our threatened species legislation as at risk of extinction. This government has set out a plan to act on just 6% of them.
“Last year we spent $30.7 billion on our cats and dogs. We can afford the $2 billion a year needed to prevent any further extinctions of Australia’s unique threatened plants and animals.”
The Minister also announced today the listing decisions for 20 threatened species and 3 threatened ecological communities.
15 species and 3 ecological communities have been added to the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act), four species have been upgraded to a higher threat species, and only one retained its current threat category.
Ritchie also suggests that we need greater change in terms of the legislation regarding the threats facing species and ecosystems in the first place. For instance, the Labor Government’s goal of a 43% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 is not ambitious enough to keep global warming to 1.5°C by 2100.
James Watson, a Professor of Conservation Science at the University of Queensland praised the government’s plan but with caveats. “It’s great this government is taking its international obligations more seriously than the previous one.
“But Australians must understand that securing 30% of land and sea will not secure species unless there is far greater investment in the actual management of these places and that this won’t achieve much at all if land clearing, logging and inappropriate fishing continue unabated.
Listing decisions under EPBC Act announced today:
- Johnson’s Cycad – added as endangered
- Pretty Beard Orchid – added as endangered
- Bertya sp. Clouds Creek (M.Fatemi 4) – added as endangered
- Bird Orchid or Duck’s-head wasp orchid – added as endangered
- Pomaderris gilmourii var. gilmourii – added as endangered
- White Star-bush – added as critically endangered
- Coastal Leek Orchid – added as critically endangered
- Large-fruited Denhamia – added as endangered
- Headland Commersonia – added as critically endangered
- Yellow Mountain Bell – uplisted from endangered to critically endangered
- Stirling Range Dryandra – uplisted from endangered to critically endangered
- Corokia whiteana – uplisted from vulnerable to endangered
- Grey Deua Pomaderris – uplisted from vulnerable to critically endangered
- Western Beautiful Firetail – added as endangered
- Malanda Rainbowfish – added as critically endangered
- Oxleyan Pygmy Perch – retained as endangered
- Parma Wallaby – added as vulnerable
- Grey Snake – added as endangered
- Gravel Downs Ctenotus – added as critically endangered
- Key’s Matchstick Grasshopper – added as endangered
- Mount Kaputar land snail and slug community – added as endangered
- Ben Halls Gap Sphagnum Moss Cool Temperate Rainforest – added as critically endangered
- Subtropical eucalypt floodplain forest and woodland of the New South Wales North Coast and Southeast Queensland bioregions – added as endangered
Imma Perfetto is a science journalist at Cosmos. She has a Bachelor of Science with Honours in Science Communication from the University of Adelaide.
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