State of the Environment report a harsh reality most will want to avoid

An environmental report prepared when the Morrison government was in power was deemed simply too harsh to be released says current federal government

A report on the environmental state prepared under the previous federal government but never released until now is represented in this tragic photo of a dead sandalwood tree

This is the report the Morrison government didn’t want you to see.

That is according to the new Minister for the Environment and Water, Hon Tanya Plibersek who today released the State of the Environment Report  with the warning, “I’ll be honest with you, it’s a confronting read.”

Labor Minister Tanya Plibersek went on to say,The report is a comprehensive overview of the challenges facing our environment, written by some of the best scientists in the country.

“The Morrison government received the report before Christmas 2021, but they refused to release it. When you read it, you’ll know why,” Tanya Plibersek continues.

“It tells the story of a decade of neglect and decline. Of warnings and pleas for help from experts that the previous government ignored.  

“There are so many shocking findings in the report – these are just a few.  

  • Australia has lost more mammal species to extinction than any other continent.  
  • The Murray Darling experienced its lowest water level on record in 2019.  
  • The Black Summer bushfires burned more than 8 million hectares of native vegetation and killed or displaced up to 3 billion animals.  
Minister for the Environment and Water, Hon Tanya Plibersek says she has the answers

“At the election, Australians made it clear that they want a government that cares about our environment. And today in my first major speech as Minister for the Environment and Water my message was clear: under Labor, the environment is back – front and centre. 

“That’s why one of our first acts of the new Parliament will be legislating a more ambitious 2030 emissions reduction target. Because you can’t be serious about the environment if you’re not serious about climate change.  

“We’re also getting straight to work to undo some of the harm of the previous government, with actions like reforming our environment laws, establishing an Environmental Protection Agency, making it easier for First Nations Australians to protect their cultural heritage.

“And setting a national goal of protecting thirty percent of our land and thirty percent of our oceans by 2030. For more detail, read my address at the National Press Club from today.  

“This is just the start, Labor governments have a proud legacy when it comes to the environment.

“We established Landcare, created the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, established and expanded the largest network of marine parks in the world, and protected Antarctica, the Franklin River, the Daintree, Kakadu and the Tasmanian World Heritage Area,” Minister Tanya Plibersek concluded.

What’s in the report

Take a look at the report for yourself, Australia State of the Environment, but in the meantime here are some of the key findings:

In a rapidly changing climate, with unsustainable development and use of resources, the general outlook for our environment is deteriorating

  • Overall, the state and trend of the environment of Australia are poor and deteriorating as a result of increasing pressures from climate change, habitat loss, invasive species, pollution and resource extraction. Changing environmental conditions mean that many species and ecosystems are increasingly threatened. Multiple pressures create cumulative impacts that amplify threats to our environment, and abrupt changes in ecological systems have been recorded in the past 5 years.
  • The Australian Government’s 2015 Threatened Species Strategy 5-year action plan achieved partial success by improving the trajectories of 21 priority species by 2020, but many did not show improvements and, overall, the number of listed species has grown by 8% since 2016. The number of listed entities will increase substantially in coming years as a result of the 2019–20 bushfires.
  • Our inability to adequately manage pressures will continue to result in species extinctions and deteriorating ecosystem condition, which are reducing the environmental capital on which current and future economies depend. Social, environmental and economic impacts are already apparent.

Immediate action with innovative management and collaboration can turn things around

  • Adequately resourced, innovative, responsive and collaborative management measures will foster investment and renewed action to turn things around. Australia currently lacks a framework that delivers holistic environmental management to integrate our disconnected legislative and institutional national, state and territory systems, and break down existing barriers to stimulate new models and partnerships for innovative environmental management and financing.
  • Climate change is continuing and is increasing the impacts of other pressures on our environment. Immediate global action to reduce carbon emissions would result in reduced pressures and improved trajectories for most aspects of our environment.
  • Australian individuals, communities, nongovernment organisations and businesses are engaging with nature and supporting biodiversity and heritage. Successful on-ground actions include the work of Indigenous rangers, citizen science, and restoration actions at many scales, providing opportunities that deliver benefits for people and Country. Urban planners and governments are recognising the need for change and a more collaborative, whole-of-system approach, with place-based outcomes that can build greater resilience and regenerate our urban areas.

Substantial data about the environment are becoming more available. Over the past 6 years, the National Environmental Science Program and the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy have become important sources of information for state of the environment reporting and have provided critical funding for research informing policy and on-ground management of the environment. Better coordination of data and the introduction of national environmental standards will provide a direct mechanism for agreement between all jurisdictions, leading to improved environmental reporting at all levels. There is also a clear need to empower Indigenous communities to manage the culturally appropriate collection and integration of data.