Australia at risk of abandoning its target of no new extinctions

MEDIA RELEASE

Australia’s endangered species face an uncertain future as the federal government considers adopting weak targets in the country’s Strategy for Nature.

The government will revise its Strategy following a short consultation on its Discussion Paper, which closed last week.

The updated Strategy will include targets that reflect national priorities for addressing biodiversity loss and that contribute to global commitments to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030.

The Australian Land Conservation Alliance (ALCA), the peak national body for private land conservation, is deeply concerned by the lack of measurability, urgency, and ambition in the Australian targets.

ALCA CEO Dr. Jody Gunn expressed particular disappointment at the shift from the robust target of no new extinctions set out in the 2022 Threatened Species Action Plan, to the ambiguous target of ‘work towards zero new extinctions’ proposed for Australia’s overarching nature strategy.

“It suggests that Australia’s biodiversity conservation efforts are being downgraded,” said Dr Gunn.

Australia had previously made the ambitious pledge to prevent any new extinctions of native animals or plants in response to challenges identified in the State of the Environment (2021) report, offering new hope for endangered species.

However, Dr. Gunn warns that this critical pledge, and other necessary efforts to protect and restore nature are at risk of being abandoned if the revised Strategy for Nature is not specific, and measurable.

The Strategy for Nature, globally known as a National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP), outlines how a country will deliver on its international commitments under the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF). The historic GBF agreement was adopted by almost 200 countries in late 2022 in recognition of the urgent need to combat the escalating nature crisis.

As a GBF signatory, Australia must report on its NBSAP update and contributions to global biodiversity goals at a conference of the parties to the GBF in October this year.

The federal government aims to align Australia’s biodiversity agenda with the ambitious GBF through its Strategy for Nature update, but Dr. Gunn says that the current proposal falls short.

“I was in Montreal at COP15, and witnessed our government proactively negotiating to ensure that a strong global framework to reverse nature loss was secured. To see Australia adopt a weaker set of targets than those at a global level does not reflect the leadership we should expect from a megadiverse and well-resourced country. We can and we must aim higher,” she said.

Dr Gunn emphasised the need for strong political leadership to combat environmental decline and species extinction. She cautions that Australia’s commitment to the Global Biodiversity Framework, and its previous no new extinctions pledge, will not be taken seriously if it adopts the targets proposed in the Discussion Paper.

ALCA supports the six priority areas selected in the Discussion Paper but insists that the targets be revised to be internationally and domestically creditable. It urges for policy and evidence-driven targets with strategic actions and indicators for each priority area, and for clarity on how all GBF targets will be accounted for in the Strategy for Nature.

ALCA also calls for an additional priority area to mobilise finance, especially for developing countries. This will be critically important ahead of the forthcoming Global Nature Positive Summit and the leadership role Australia is expected to play for the Indo-Pacific.

Proposed amendments and recommendations from the peak body are available in full in its submission.

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