Media release: Federal Enviro Law fails on climate, extinction and accountability

April 29, 2020

Our national environment laws - the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act - are failing to prevent species extinction and address today’s most pressing environmental threats including climate change. The 10-year review is our opportunity to strengthen these laws and ensure the health of our environment in the Territory.

In the Territory, introduced weeds including buffel grass have pushed our biodiversity to breaking point. Land clearing and shale gas fracking are major issues which the Act is failing to address. It is also failing to stem Australia’s extinction crisis. Climate change, almost universally accepted as the most serious environmental threat, is not even mentioned.

We are in a health and climate emergency. The Territory in particular is vulnerable to environmental shocks due to our unique desert landscape. We need laws that ensure Territory communities are resilient in the face of a warming planet and can cope with environmental challenges today and into the future,” said Alex Read, Policy Officer for the Arid Lands Environment Centre.

“Our current laws are failing because they are too weak, out of date and have an inadequate review and approval processes. More than 7.7m hectares of threatened species habitat has been destroyed since the Act was first established. That’s larger than the area of Tasmania. 

“We’re concerned that the case for reform may be ignored because the environment minister, Sussan Ley, has indicated the Government may change the law before the review is finished. This is inappropriate and goes against the best interest of Australians. It is a direct example that we need stronger measures that can prevent this kind of political influence in environmental decision making.”

“Climate change, invasive species and land clearing are pushing biodiversity in the Territory to breaking point. That’s why we’re calling for stronger laws that protect our biodiversity and can tackle major environmental threats head on.”

In their submission to the review, the Arid Lands Environment Centre identifies the necessary changes that will bring our laws up to scratch. These are:

  1. Addressing our biggest environmental threats.
    Land clearing, climate change and shale gas fracking must be added as matters of National Environmental Significance in the Act for it to be effective.

  2. Preventing extinction of plants and wildlife
    The Act needs to be amended to prevent further extinction of our threatened species. In the Territory, this means applying it to stop the spread of buffel grass which is endangering our plants and wildlife. Habitat loss due to inappropriate development must also be addressed.

  3. Government decision making must be accountable and transparent
    The laws are there to be followed. The Act needs better measures for accountability and transparency of decision-making processes. Political interests should not be allowed to trump independent recommendations made to protect the environment.

Northern Territory environmental laws are some of the weakest in Australia. It is time for stronger, more robust laws that work to protect arid lands and people.

Download the Arid Lands Environment Centre full EPBC Act submission here. 

Arid Lands Media Enquiries:

Journalists with enquiries may contact Jess Xavier, communications@alec.org.au

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Protecting the outback and catalysing the essential change needed to tackle climate change and create a sustainable future is a big task and we need your support to do it. Sign up here for more information on how you can support the work of the Arid Lands Environment Centre