‘The environment minister, Sussan Ley, signed the Kunming Declaration overnight’ for the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)
‘The most unique feature of Earth is the existence of life, and the most extraordinary feature of life is its diversity. Approximately 9 million types of plants, animals, protists and fungi inhabit the Earth. So, too, do 7 billion people.’[i]
Australia is among seven nations responsible for more than 50 per cent of global biodiversity loss and lies second (behind Indonesia) for biodiversity loss.[ii] In March of this year a headline read, ‘Australia confirms extinction of 13 more species, including first reptile since colonisation.’[iii] Of course, species need habitat and their underlying ecological systems and processes. Australian scientists are warning that, ‘urgent action needed to save 19 collapsing ecosystems.’[iv]
Climate change: Biodiversity; and Abundance are three key interlocking issues facing us today. Abundance is a concept not so well known as biodiversity, but for a species to survive more than one individual is needed, and for some ecosystems abundance is vital.
Across the planet, 40 per cent of bird species are in decline. In North America, there are 2.9 billion fewer birds taking wing than was the case during the 1970s. Some countries in Africa and Asia have reported even more catastrophic declines. One in nine bird species in Africa face a high risk of extinction in the wild, with populations of threatened birds such as vultures and grey parrots having declined by 90 per cent in the past four decades, according to BirdLife International.[v]
And I have just seen this posted on this evening’s Guardian’s website: ‘One in five of Europe’s bird species slipping towards extinction’ (Phoebe Weston, 14 Oct)
Eighteen species of parrots are critically endangered worldwide due to habitat loss and the illegal pet trade. Some species though are doing better than ever with the human changes to the environment. The Rainbow Lorikeet was abundant around Sydney until the late 19th century, but was rare in Sydney until the 1960s. I never saw many when I first arrived in 1980. The bird is now widespread in Sydney and across eastern and northern Australia, benefiting from hybrid natives shrubs producing large flowers with loaded with nectar. Our village is full of them, and their cousin the Scaly-breasted, with callistemons now in flower.
From today’s Guardian, 14 Oct 2021:
Australia and more than 100 other countries have pledged to work toward a post 2020 global deal for nature that aims to reverse losses of biodiversity.
The environment minister, Sussan Ley, signed the Kunming Declaration overnight, which is something of a statement of intent by countries as they work towards a major new agreement for nature.
The talks are happening as part of a United Nations conference – known as Cop15 or “the other Cop” – as part of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). It doesn’t get nearly the same level of attention as global climate talks but these are the most significant nature talks in a decade.
Countries are negotiating a new framework to try to halt the decline of ecosystems worldwide and put nature on the path to recovery by 2030. After this week’s virtual meeting, there will be further meetings in the new year before countries meet in Kunming in China in April 2022 to hopefully reach a new agreement.
Countries have not yet signed on to any targets but it is hoped the final deal will see countries agree to protecting 30% of land and of sea areas globally. Australia supports the global target but has not said if it will make such a commitment domestically.
Ley: As one of only seventeen ‘megadiverse’ countries in the world, and the only megadiverse developed country that is a party to the CBD, Australia understands the value of biodiversity with our unique native plants, animals and landscapes central to our national identity.
Australia is well placed to make a substantial contribution to a global target and will work with other nations to see it adopted as part of a Global Biodiversity Framework in 2022.
The greens environment spokeswoman Sarah-Hanson Young has called on the government to commit to a domestic target.
Australia’s environment minister needs to commit to protecting 30% of land and 30% of sea by 2030 – in this country. The minister is spinning the government’s commitment to a global target trying to cover up her failure to make a specific commitment for Australia. [vi]
Australia is doing a terrible job of saving so many endemic species from extinction. As Professor Stephen Garnett points out, ‘Recovery plans are the central tool available to the federal government to prevent extinctions. They outline a species population and distribution, threats such as habitat loss and climate change, and actions needed to recover population numbers. But many are so vague they do very little to protect threatened species from habitat destruction and other threats. And governments are not obliged to implement or fund the plans, rendering most virtually useless.
Until federal environment law is strengthened and conservation management is properly funded, the prospects of our most vulnerable species will continue to worsen – and some will be lost forever.’[vii]
[i] Bradley J. Cardinale, et al., ‘Biodiversity loss and its impact on humanity’, Nature, vol 486, 6 June 2012.
[ii] Nick Kilvert, ABC Science, 26 October, 2017.
[iii] Adam Morton, the Guardian, 3 March, 2021.
[iv] A study in the peer-reviewed journal Global Change Biology, examines ‘data for 20 struggling ecosystems and finds 19 have substantially changed, have a low likelihood of recovery and are heading towards permanent collapse.’ Adam Morton and Graham Readfearn, ‘The disaster movie playing in Australia’s wild places – and solutions that could help hit pause’, The Guardian, 6 Mar 2021
[v] Mark Rowe, ‘Dossier: the silent chorus – declines in the bird world’, https://geographical.co.uk/, 14.10.2020
[vii] Professor Stephen Garnett, ‘Australia’s threatened species protections are being rewritten. But what’s really needed is money and legal teeth’, The Conversation, September 30, 2021.