Australian Government’s Environment Reform Backdown Set to Lock In New Fossil Fuels and Extinctions

More than 100 environment groups have signed an open letter calling for strong environmental law reforms as the Australian Federal Government backs out of its already overdue ‘Nature Positive Plan’ to reform the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act.

The open letter, coordinated by the Australia Institute, appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and the Canberra Times.

Key Points:

Due at the end of 2023, there is now no indication of when the Federal Government’s proposed environmental law reforms will be presented

The backdown is likely to allow at least 30 new fossil fuel projects to be approved under existing laws created by the Howard Government and weakened under the Abbott Government, driving further ecosystem collapse and species extinction.

These fossil fuel projects represent up to 17 billion tonnes of emissions (or 30-years of Australia’s total annual emissions):

Up to 25 new coal projects would release over 12 billion tonnes of potential Co2-e, according to the Australia Institute’s Coal Tracker.

Several giant gas projects in WA, including Woodside’s Burrup Hub expansion, would release over 5 billion tonnes of carbon emissions.

The Australian Government is relying on current EPBC laws which make no mention of climate change, do not allow any appeal on the merits of the decision, and outsource federal responsibilities to the states and territories.

“Minister Plibersek herself has said the need to protect our ecosystems has never been greater. It is extraordinary that the Australian Government would backtrack on its commitment to protect the environment on the same day scientists confirm the worst global coral bleaching event on record,” said Polly Hemming, Climate & Energy program director at the Australia Institute.

“In light of the Albanese Government’s political and financial support for fossil fuels and laissez faire approach to logging and deforestation in Australia, the announcement is both entirely on-brand and possibly by design.

“What we must remember is that we don’t need laws to end native forest logging in Australia or stop subsidising fossil fuels. The Government could commit to that today with or without the EPBC Act.

“This is not an abstract legal issue. The longer the government acts in the interests of industry over the Australian public and the environment, the more species extinctions, floods, fires and heatwaves we will face.”