Protecting Australia’s Nature: Pathways to Protecting 30% of land by 2030

Australia needs to protect another 60 million hectares to achieve its share of the global land target. It’s ambitious, but achievable - here's how.

In December 2022, Australia joined 195 other nations in signing on to the Global Biodiversity Framework to tackle the accelerating biodiversity crisis – one of the biggest issues facing the world. Each nation agreed to set a goal of protecting at least 30% of land, freshwater and ocean ecosystems by 2030.

Australia needs to protect another 60 million hectares to achieve Australia’s share of the global land target. That’s the equivalent of about three times the size of Victoria. It’s ambitious, but achievable, and is what the science says is the minimum we need to do to halt and reverse nature decline, stop many further extinctions, and prevent a decline in our social and economic wellbeing.

In a collaboration with The Nature Conservancy Australia, WWF-Australia and the Pew Charitable Trusts, ALCA has produced a new report outlining the four most effective pathways to meet the ‘30 by 30’ target:

  • A dedicated fund to purchase land of high biodiversity value for new public, private or Indigenous Protected Areas; 
  • Continued investment into Indigenous Protected Areas;
  • Expanding permanent private land conservation; and
  • Transitioning public land to conservation tenures.

No single pathway or type of protected area can deliver the amount of protection needed by itself, and this is why we need a combination of approaches. These pathways to 30 by 30 are all built on a robust, science-based framework to ensure protection happens in the areas that need it most and is underscored by the importance of the rights and interests of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in achieving conservation outcomes.

Private protected areas are already a vital part of Australia’s protected area estate. We have one of the largest networks of privately protected areas in the world with more than 6,000 areas protected covering over 10 million hectares. This is made up of conservation covenants and land owned by non-government land conservancies; with land being stewarded and managed by thousands of people including farmers and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Privately protected areas, and the people who protect, make important contributions to conserving some of Australia’s most threatened ecosystems and provide critical landscape connectivity. With 60% of Australia under some kind of private land tenure there is huge opportunity to expand the amount that is permanently protected, and build on the social, economic, and environmental outcomes already being delivered by private landowners who choose to make space for nature. 

The Australian Government can support significant expansion of privately protected areas by implementing the following recommendations:

  • Provide direct support to state and territory conservation covenant programs with an explicit focus on expanding the protected area estate in under-represented bioregions and ecosystems;
  • Support states and territories to develop enhanced protection conservation covenants in their jurisdictions, in order to attract larger scale private conservation investment; and
  • Instigate a Treasury or Productivity Commission review into federal and state tax and financial incentives and barriers to private land conservation.

The window of opportunity is still open, but we have no time to lose. The Pathways report offers practical and timely ways to achieve a healthy, resilient Australia.

Read the full report.

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