Media Releases - 21 October 2021

Barnaby Joyce’s net-zero EPBC bid a sovereign risk to Australia’s biodiversity and a poison chalice for agriculture sector

It has been reported in this morning’s press that the National Party is seeking a deal with the Morrison Government to remove protections in Australia’s environment laws in exchange for the junior Coalition supporting a 2050 climate commitment—a commitment 120 other countries have already made.

The Wilderness Society provides the following comments on this short-sighted and extreme proposal.

Amelia Young, National Campaigns Director says: “Every possible objective assessment from the Samuel Review of Australia’s environment laws to the regular State of Environment Reports show that Australia’s environment needs higher standards of protection not lower.

“Net zero by 2050 is required and even more vital are actions taken in the next decade. Protecting nature is a critical part of the pathway to net zero. But rather than accelerating action to protect nature and mitigate the worst impacts of climate change, the Nats are focussed on ripping up environment laws to let the miners loose and deforestation to run amok.

“The Nationals cannot be allowed to sacrifice nature and the agriculture sector to give mining a free pass in the path to net zero.

“Agriculture and mining have an enormous impact on Australia’s unique environment. Yet it is mining who has the biggest interaction with the EPBC Act. A review by the former head of National Farmers Federation Wendy Craik found that farmers currently have little interaction with the Act. Of the 6,000 referrals made between 2000 and 2018 only 165 related to agriculture and only 2 of these were rejected.

Tim Beshara, Manager of Policy and Strategy makes it clear: “The Nats reportedly want farmers to be able profit from biodiversity initiatives but at the same time are seeking to reduce biodiversity protections as part of a deal to reach net zero. Enabling farmers and miners to clear more of Australia’s iconic forests and bushlands destroys biodiversity. The Nats can’t have it both ways—for biodiversity to be a secure income stream it needs to be protected, not destroyed.

“Any reduction in environmental protection is a poison pill for farmers. As biodiversity risk follows in the footsteps of climate risk any weakening of environment laws is justifiably going to escalate the scrutiny on farmers when accessing markets and capital.

“Barnaby Joyce may have missed the memo that biodiversity risk is following in climate risk footsteps, but the ag sector hasn’t. They realise that the world is expecting higher and higher environment standards. They know that Australia has some of the world's most important biodiversity values so the world will expect the highest standards.

“Investors, banks and retailers can access real-time information about what habitats are being cleared and by whom. So it’s never going to be the free-for-all Barnaby wants. The lower the environmental standards a government sets, the higher the level of scrutiny markets and financiers will set. They won’t care about domestic politics and what Barnaby thinks—they’ll just look at the risks and act accordingly.

For further comment contact Tim Beshara on 0437 878 786.

See AFR for press report on Nationals bid