The Federal Opposition has outlined its flagship $1 billion environment plan to strengthen environmental protection, tackle the burgeoning extinction crisis and dramatically cut down the nation’s single-use plastic consumption.
Shadow Environment Minister Tony Burke announced the Protecting the Environment plan late last week, saying that an elected Labor Government would reform the country’s environment laws and create a new, independent Federal Environment Protection Agency.
“The new EPA will be informed by the best available scientific advice, manage development approvals, ensure compliance with environmental law, collect data and evaluate progress. If required it will also undertake consultation on key environmental issues,” Mr Burke said in a statement.
Labor’s Protecting the Environment plan will include:
$100 million Native Species Protection Fund
Labor will establish a Native Species Protection Fund – which will seek to both restore numbers of endangered plants and animals and eliminate non-native pests.
The Fund will be established through a $100 million investment to tackle the most pressing extinction and invasive species issues. Labor will call on all states and territories, business and civil society to join in a national effort to protect our iconic animal and plant species.
Projects could be as simple as engaging Indigenous Rangers to help eliminate invasive plants and feral animals, to much more innovative ideas: for example, it could help fund research into new forms of pest control – such as baits, poisons, or even research to engineer genetic traits to eliminate invasive species after a number of generations. The Fund will also be used to increase the pace at which recovery plans are put in place and acted on which has all but ground to a halt under the Liberals.
$62 million Beaches and Coastlines Climate Adaptation Plan
Labor will invest $62 million to help repair our coastlines, tackle coastal erosion and prepare our beaches for the impact of climate change. Around 85 per cent of the population now live in coastal regions and the Australian coast is of immense economic, social and environmental importance to the nation.
Australia’s coastal communities are already seeing the impacts of climate change and rising sea levels, in increased coastal erosion, a loss of dunes and inundation.
The plan will:
Facilitate a national framework for building climate resilience, bringing together local and state governments, community groups, the business community, researchers and relevant Commonwealth agencies and departments. The national framework will provide the leadership that has been lacking under the Liberals to develop plans to adapt to climate impacts.
Re-invigorate the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF) to support the creation and dissemination of research into local climate change impacts, through re-funding of the program with $3 million per year.
Introduce a $50 million Coastal Rehabilitation Fund, to work with communities, local governments, and the Australian Coastal Council Association to directly support coastal rehabilitation projects that restore beaches and adjacent coastal environments, and improve their resilience.
$50 million towards Environmental law reform and a new EPA
Reform Australia’s environmental law, by passing a new Federal Environment Act.
Where possible, harmonise state and federal laws to minimise duplication.
Create a new Act which obligates the Australian Government to both protect and restore Australia’s environment.
Establishing a new national Environment Protection Authority with the mission to protect Australia’s natural environment and deliver rigorous compliance.
The new EPA will be informed by the best available scientific advice, manage development approvals, ensure compliance with environmental law, collect data and evaluate progress. If required it will also undertake consultation on key environmental issues.
The Fund is in addition to commitments that have already been announced:
$200 million Urban Rivers and Corridors Program.
$90 million Plastics and Recycling Package.
More than $200 million to double the number of Indigenous Rangers over five years.
More than $400 million through the return of Great Barrier Reef Foundation grant, to be reinvested through public agencies