Environment law fails to protect threatened species in Australia – ScienceDaily


Federal environmental laws are failing to alleviate Australia’s extinction crisis, according to University of Queensland research.

Natalia Metz, a PhD candidate from the University of Queensland, led a collaborative project that analyzed potential habitat loss in Queensland and New South Wales and found The Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act of 1999 (EPBC) Do not protect threatened species.

“A system designed to rank development projects according to their environmental impact is rather worthless,” Metz said.

“There is no statistically significant difference between the amount of threatened habitat destroyed under projects deemed ‘important’ or ‘unimportant’ by the National Biodiversity Regulator.”

Under EPBC CodeIndividuals or organizations looking to initiate projects with a potential “high impact” on protected species should seek further federal review and approval.

Developments which are not likely to have a significant impact do not require further Commonwealth approval.

“But with law enforcement now, high-impact projects are removing as many species’ habitats as projects that are considered low-risk,” said Ms. Meitz.

“If legislation effectively protects threatened habitats, we would expect less ecologically sensitive habitats cleared under projects rated as unlikely to have a significant impact.”

The research examined vegetation cleared for projects in areas that provided habitat for threatened species, migratory species and threatened ecological communities in Queensland and New South Wales – a global hotspot of deforestation.

Co-author Dr. Martin Taylor said the regulator’s “significant” rating appeared to have no consistent quantitative basis in decision-making by the regulator.

“Neither the law itself, nor the regulator, has been able to provide clear and scientifically robust thresholds for what constitutes a significant impact, such as x hectares of habitat for species destroyed,” said Dr Taylor.

“Many species have lost the majority of their habitat to projects deemed insignificant.

For example, the tiger quoll lost 82 percent of its total habitat assigned to projects thought unlikely to have a significant impact, while the gray-headed flying fox lost 72 percent.

“These species are on the verge of extinction, and the government will not achieve the zero extinction goal unless these threats are stopped.”

Dr Taylor said the research highlights what appear to be inconsistencies in the referral decision-making process, a concern raised in the NHS 2020 Independent Review of the EPBC Code by Graeme Samuel.

“These findings underscore the importance of considering cumulative effects and the need to establish scientifically robust thresholds that are applied rigorously and consistently – factors that must be considered when formulating upcoming reforms in order to give Australia’s irreplaceable biodiversity a fighting chance,” Dr. Taylor said.

The Australian government has announced that major reforms will be made to the legislation.



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