Written by Samantha Vine/Birds Australia
10 July announcement by the Gillard Government of a new $1 billion Biodiversity Fund has finally lifted the veil on the important role of natural ecosystems in mitigating climate change. Until now, this crucial aspect was not recognised by climate change policy in Australia, but that seems to have been remedied by yesterday’s announcement. By addressing some real conservation issues, the Government’s proposal could secure a win–win opportunity for the environment.
Professor Ross Garnaut’s recent Climate Change Review update paper on ‘Transforming Rural Land Use’ recommended that the Federal Government align its incentives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through a carbon price and complementary measures, including incentives to build the resilience of ecosystems and biodiversity to the impacts of climate change. Professor Garnaut recommended allocating part of the income from a trading scheme to the landscape sector: up to 10% for Kyoto-compliant activities such as tree planting, and up to 6% for non-Kyoto activities such as soil carbon.
Bar-tailed Godwits over an Australian wetland. © Jan Wegener
Birds Australia welcomed the news of a new Biodiversity Fund of almost $1 billion announced as part of the Clean Energy Future Package.
“Despite an abundance of international reports, including the World Bank Report Convenient solutions to an Inconvenient Truth, which substantiate the critical role of large intact natural systems in climate-change mitigation and adaptation, the issue has been almost completely absent from climate responses. That is, until now.” said Birds Australia’s conservation manager Samantha Vine.
“The Government has announced that it will provide funding of $946 million over the next six years to undertake projects that establish, restore, protect and manage biodiverse carbon stores” said Samantha. “This will help tackle climate change and its impacts by reducing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and increasing the resilience of Australia’s diverse natural environment so it can sequester carbon in the long term.”
The Fund, which Birds Australia and a number of key environmental NGOs have been advocating, was reported to have made it into the Government Plan with support from the Greens and Independent Tony Windsor.
“Increased investment will not only benefit biodiversity and capture carbon; it will help rejuvenate regional and rural communities, economies and employment, especially in remote Australia” said Samantha. “We have known for a long time that better biodiversity management is linked with sustainable productivity of the land.”
The Fund will support restoration and management of biodiverse carbon stores including:
- reforestation and revegetation in areas of high conservation value, including wildlife corridors, rivers, streams and wetlands
- management and protection of biodiverse ecosystems, and
- action to prevent the spread of invasive species across connected landscapes.
The announcement of the establishment of the Biodioversity Fund is especially important, as biodiversity has the most to lose in the face of human-induced climate change. Incredibly, Australia’s biodiversity crisis could actually be worsened by the adoption of simplistic carbon sequestration schemes, such as monoculture plantations at the expense of native vegetation, if the only aim is to increase the amount of carbon captured without taking into account a number of complex, adverse side-effects.
Birds Australia had also lobbied for the establishment of an independent body to oversee the Fund and so is delighted that an independent ‘Land Sector Carbon and Biodiversity Advisory Board’ will be established to provide advice to Government on setting priorities and reviewing the success of the program.
Birds Australia also welcomes news that the use of biomass from logging native forests will no longer be counted as renewable energy.