The state and trend of the environment in Australia have been labelled “poor and deteriorating” in a damning new government report, with findings revealing the country has lost more mammal species to extinction than any other continent in the world.
The State of the Environment report — completed every five years and published Tuesday — shows climate change, habitat loss, invasive species, pollution and resource extraction, as well as the lack of solid environmental management frameworks, have resulted in the near collapse of close to 20 ecosystems.
Increasing temperatures due to human-induced climate change were particularly attributed to the loss.
The report concluded that changes in rainfall patterns and the severity and frequency of bushfires and heatwaves have profoundly impacted all aspects of the environment. The nation’s climate has warmed by almost 1.5 degrees since records began, with the decade from 2011 to 2022 the warmest on record.
Recent record bushfires in 2019 and 2021 helped catapult koalas from a "vulnerable" to an "endangered" status.
A further 200 plant and animal species joined the threatened list in the half-decade since the previous report was published.
"Climate change is continuing and is increasing the impacts of other pressures on our environment,” the report read. “Immediate global action to reduce carbon emissions would result in reduced pressures and improved trajectories for most aspects of our environment.”
One of the stories the State of the Environment report tells is the devastating impact the 2019-2020 Black Summer bushfires had - ripping through southeast Australia and killing and displacing up to 3 billion animals. pic.twitter.com/1HJ01Mfk0y— Tanya Plibersek (@tanya_plibersek) July 20, 2022
Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek said the newly elected Labor Government would heed the report's calls to prioritise environmental protection, reconfirming the party's emissions reduction goals and protections for national parks and marine areas.
"Australia’s environment is bad and getting worse, and much of the destruction outlined in the report will take years to turn around,” Plibersek said in a National Press Club address held to discuss the findings. “Nevertheless, I am optimistic about the steps we can take over the next three years. Legislating strong action on climate change is a great start.”
Plibersek promised “fundamental reform of national environmental laws” and that Australia’s national estate would be expanded to ensure 30% of all land and sea is protected by 2030. Just under $230 million, meanwhile, has been pledged to the threatened species program.
The report, however, says over $1.5 billion per year is required to ensure the survival of threatened plants and animals.
Environmentalists the country over have praised the report for its clear recommendations to Australia’s leaders.
Among them is President of the Australian Academy of Science Chennupati Jagadish, who backs the report’s call for national leadership to help “foster coordinated action and encourage investment” to address the nation’s “mounting” climate issues.
“Australia must revisit its emission reduction commitments and work with other countries to provide the leadership and collaboration required to place Australia and the world on a safer climate trajectory,” Jagadish wrote in a statement.
Other recommendations include additional collaboration with Indigenous rangers and better coordination of data.