What's driving deforestation & land clearing in QLD?

What's driving deforestation & land clearing in QLD?

Deforestation in Australia has now reached globally significant levels, driven largely by land clearing in Queensland.

Australia is the worst offending country for mammal extinctions. For species like the koala, we know the biggest problem is the destruction of their forest homes. Over roughly the last 20 years, koalas numbers have declined by over 50% across Queensland.

Photo: Wayne Lawler

Deforestation in Australia

Deforestation—the reduction or complete removal of native forest and bushland—has escalated in Australia over the recent years to reach globally significant levels. Eastern Australia is now a designated global deforestation hotspot, alongside places including the Amazon, the Congo and Borneo. 

The destruction of koala habitat seen in Southeast Queensland is only the tip of the iceberg. 

Due to the lousy deforestation laws our state had between 2013 and 2018, over 1.6 million hectares of forest and bushland were destroyed. That's an area the size of the Gabba stadium bulldozed every 3 minutes. 

The laws have improved, but the destruction of forest and bushland across Queensland continues to be the biggest contributor to Australia's terrible deforestation record.

We must prevent Queensland deforestation law rollbacks.

With bushfire and now COVID-19 recovery planning underway, big business and other vested interests see an opportunity to wind back protections. We can’t let Queensland return to the old policies that saw millions of native animals killed every year. 

Last time the laws got rolled back, we saw a four-fold increase in deforestation in Queensland. During that time, 45 million native animals were killed—every single year. Plus, Queensland koalas lost more of their home than ever before. It took years to get stronger laws back in place.

Australia is the ‘extinction nation’ and the only developed country on the list of top ten deforestation hotspots. Unfortunately, this is largely due to what has happened in Queensland in the recent past. 

Only strong Queensland deforestation laws will protect our koalas and other threatened species. 

Summary Report

The Queensland Government’s official reports consistently attribute over 90% of the states forest and bushland destruction to replacement by ‘pasture’. However, the Wilderness Society has undertaken fine-scaled GIS analysis to determine, for the first time, the specific sectors contributing to deforestation in Queensland.

Our 2019 analysis found that 73% of all deforestation and land clearing in Queensland is linked to beef production. 

In Great Barrier Reef catchments, over 93% of all deforestation and land clearing is attributed to beef as the primary land use. A key implication of these findings is that the sectors identified as key drivers of Queensland’s deforestation and land clearing rates are currently exposed to deforestation risk. 

Photo: Burrage Brothers Photography

Key Findings

  • 73% of all deforestation and land clearing in Queensland is linked to beef production
  • In total, over 1 million hectares (1,174,600 hectares) of deforestation and land clearing over the last five years was linked to beef production
  • In the Great Barrier Reef catchments, over 93% of all deforestation and land clearing is attributed to beef as the primary land use

Implications: Deforestation risk in supply chains

This analysis suggests that deforestation risk exists in a number of Queensland-linked commodity supply chains, including beef and sheep production. Deforestation risk refers to the financial, reputation and brand damage that could flow from a company’s activities being linked to deforestation.

Globally, new international agreements and corporate commitments to deforestation-free commodity supply chains will place increasing demand on Australia’s soft commodity sectors to transition to sustainable practices. 

The Wilderness Society’s view is that each sector with deforestation risk should adopt sector-wide commitment to deforestation-free practices. In addition, individual companies with deforestation risk in their supply chains—producers, processors, retailers and fast food restaurants—should follow the growing trend in global corporate commitments and remove deforestation and land clearing from their supply chains.

Read the full report

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