Environment law fails to protect endangered species in Australia – Zoo House News
Federal environmental laws are failing to mitigate Australia’s extinction crisis, according to research from the University of Queensland.
UQ PhD student Natalya Maitz led a collaborative project that analyzed potential habitat loss in Queensland and New South Wales and found that the Environmental Conservation and Biodiversity Protection Act 1999 (EPBC) failed to protect threatened species.
“The system for classifying development projects according to their environmental impact is more or less worthless,” said Ms. Maitz.
“There is no statistically significant difference between the amount of threatened habitat destroyed in projects classified as ‘significant’ or ‘not significant’ by the national biodiversity authority.”
Under the EPBC Act, individuals or organizations wishing to embark on projects with a potential “significant impact” on protected species must seek further federal review and approval.
Developments deemed unlikely to have a significant impact do not require further Commonwealth approval.
“But as the law is currently applied, projects with significant impacts will erase as much habitat for species as projects that are considered low-risk,” Ms Maitz said.
“If the legislation were effective in protecting threatened habitats, we would expect that less environmentally sensitive habitats that are cleared as part of the unlikely projects will 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 flashpoint of deforestation.
co-author, dr. Martin Taylor said that the regulator’s rating of “significant” does not appear to have a consistent, quantitative basis for the regulator’s decision-making.
“Neither the law itself nor the regulator have been able to set clear, scientifically sound thresholds for what constitutes a significant impact, such as: x hectares of habitat for y destroyed species,” said Dr. Taylor.
“Numerous species have lost much of their habitat to projects that are considered insignificant.
“For example, the tiger quoll lost 82 percent of its total referred habitat to projects that are assumed to have no significant impact, while the grey-headed flying fox lost 72 percent.
“These species are on the fast track to extinction and the government will not achieve its goal of zero extinction unless these threats are stopped.”
dr Taylor said the investigation showed apparent inconsistencies in the referral decision-making process, a concern raised in the 2020 Independent Review of the EPBC Act by Graeme Samuel.
“These results underscore the importance of considering cumulative impacts and the need to develop scientifically robust thresholds that are applied rigorously and consistently – factors that need to be considered when designing the forthcoming reforms to give Australia’s irreplaceable biodiversity a chance.” , said Dr Taylor said.
The Australian government announced that the legislation will be extensively reformed.