Australia can’t afford this bad budget for nature

Given the scale and urgency of the nature crisis, today’s Federal budget simply did not deliver for Australia’s environment, and our future.

Investing in nature safeguards the Australian community’s health, wellbeing and economic prosperity – and the budget could have been a pivotal opportunity to deliver the desperately needed funding to halt and reverse nature decline.

The accelerating loss of our unique biodiversity and ecosystems will also have far-reaching consequences for the economy and society unless urgently addressed.

The Australian Land Conservation Alliance (ALCA) – Australia’s peak body for private land conservation, said it had hoped to see the Government buck the trend of chronic underinvestment in nature, as well as capitalise on the opportunity for co-investment. However, this budget did neither.

A multibillion-dollar nature funding gap must be closed to tackle the nature crisis – the scale of which underscores the need for investment from portfolios beyond the environment department. Beyond the Nature Repair Market, there is a critical need to harness the rising interest and demand from the private sector, where the accelerating collapse of ecosystems is increasingly understood as a key risk to their business operations.

ALCA pointed to the United States’ Inflation Reduction Act as an example of innovative government investment that has been game changing for people and nature.

The Inflation Reduction Act represents aggressive action on climate change and recognises the critical role that nature plays as a climate solution. Its provisions direct around US$26 billion into nature-based solutions, in addition to $US6.2 billion directly for land conservation.

The US$1 billion America the Beautiful initiative leverages federal conservation and restoration investments with private and philanthropic contributions to further accelerate land, water, and wildlife conservation efforts across the country. 

Continuing policy developments in Australia’s Nature Repair Market and Sustainable Finance Strategy have been encouraging, but the Government has yet to recognise how critical nature is to the ongoing success of our economy. Australia cannot continue to draw down on its natural capital without reinvestment forever and still expect to avoid serious economic consequences.

The Future Made in Australia Act – being touted as Australia’s answer to the US Inflation Reduction Act – must heed this lesson and invest in restoring and growing our natural capital.

ALCA also noted the lack of any meaningful additional funding for on-ground conservation efforts. Without funding, federal government promises of ‘no new extinctions’ cannot be achieved.

Major conservation organisations, including ALCA, have called for a new dedicated $5 billion leveraged fund to create new public, private or Indigenous protected areas for conservation and deliver the scale of protection that is needed if Australia’s nature is to stand a decent chance into the future.

ALCA has also urged the federal government to directly support state and territory conservation programs that help people to protect, steward and restore land under their care. These initiatives will be essential if Australia is to meet its domestic and international commitments under the Global Biodiversity Framework to protect 30% of land by 2030.

With adequate resourcing, private land conservation could reasonably contribute almost 25% of Australia’s remaining protected area target by 2030; but this budget does not support the achievement of this target.

Quotes attributable to Dr Jody Gunn, CEO, Australian Land Conservation Alliance

“The 2024 Budget comes at a time when Australians, and Australian nature, are doing it really tough. To look after people, now and for the long term, we also have to look after nature. There’s a cost to reversing the decline of Australian nature, but the cost of inaction, or of acting too little too late, is far greater. Both nature and people deserved a much greater downpayment on our future in this budget.”

“Food security, health and wellbeing, community resilience, the ongoing viability of businesses and entire industries – continued biodiversity loss will impact all aspects of our lives. Reversing this trend is about looking after our life-support system. It’s about making sure our children can also have clean water, fresh air, a stable climate, a strong economic future, and, of course, the joy and wonder of experiencing the unique nature that makes Australia so special to all of us.”

“Without significant new funding for on-ground conservation it is difficult to see how policy commitments like ‘no new extinctions’ and ‘protecting 30 per cent of Australia’s lands by 2030’ can be achieved.”

“There is nothing significant in the budget for critical on-the-ground conservation efforts, let alone the massive increase that is needed to halt and reverse nature loss.”

“There’s a multi-billion dollar funding gap for what’s needed to fix Australia’s nature crisis, which is why I can’t help but feel this budget is throwing loose change at the issue.”

“Australian landholders love nature and play an important role in looking after it – and it’s in everyone’s interest that they do so – but they need help.”

“Nature isn’t just an ‘environment’ issue. It underpins our health, our wellbeing, our culture, and our economy. It absolutely has to be a whole-of-government priority.”

“Australians have told us they want far greater federal investment in nature. This budget does not deliver. We must invest in and scale up the solutions that the land conservation sector know so well, and that work.”

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