Environmental law fails to protect threatened species in Australia

Environmental law fails to protect threatened species in Australia

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

UQ PhD candidate Natalya Maitz led a collaborative project that looked at potential habitat loss in Queensland and New South Wales and found the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act of 1999 (EPBC) it is not protecting endangered species.

“The system designed to classify development projects according to their environmental impact is more or less useless,” said Ms. Maitz.

“There is no statistically significant difference between the amount of threatened habitat destroyed by projects deemed ‘significant’ or ‘insignificant’ by the national biodiversity regulator.”

Under the EPBC Lawindividuals or organizations seeking to initiate projects with a potential ‘significant impact’ on protected species should seek additional federal review and approval.

Developments deemed unlikely to have a significant impact do not require further Commonwealth approval.

“But as the law currently applies, significant impact projects are clearing just as much species habitat as projects deemed low risk,” Ms. Maitz said.

“If the legislation were effectively protecting threatened habitats, we would expect less environmentally sensitive habitats to be cleared under projects classified as unlikely to have a major 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 deforestation hotspot.

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

“Neither the Act itself, nor the regulator, have been able to provide clear and scientifically sound thresholds for what constitutes a significant impact, such as x acres of habitat for y species destroyed,” said Dr. Taylor.

“Numerous species have lost most of their habitat referred to projects considered non-significant.

“For example, the tiger quoll lost 82 percent of its total habitat referred to projects considered unlikely to have a significant impact, while the grey-headed flying fox lost 72 percent.

“These species are on their way to extinction, and the government will not achieve its goal of zero extinctions 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 2020 Independent Review of the EPBC Act by Graeme Samuel.

“These findings emphasize the importance of considering cumulative impacts and the need to develop scientifically sound thresholds that are applied rigorously and consistently, factors that need to be taken into account when drafting the next reforms to give Australia’s irreplaceable biodiversity a chance to win.” fight,” said Dr. Taylor said.

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

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