Plibersek scales back environment reforms as coral bleaching goes global


However, former competition watchdog Graeme Samuel, who published a once-in-a-decade review of the EPBC Act in October 2020, backed Plibersek's agenda and said he had recommended a similar approach.


Samuel's review called for comprehensive reform, including national standards and greater protections for threatened species, saying current federal laws have failed to prevent the “continued decline of our iconic sites and the extinction of our plants, animals and most threatened ecosystems”.

“The government and the minister are doing everything exactly as they should. I do not underestimate the complexity of what needs to be done in particular, the national environmental standards,” Samuel told this newspaper.

Plibersek said in late 2022 that the government would publish a full set of draft nature remediation laws for public comment by the end of 2023, including national environmental protection rules.

His promise built on an earlier pledge to end the steady stream of native wildlife losses. Australia's extinction rate is one of the worst in the world, with around 100 unique species of flora and fauna wiped out since colonisation, and 1900 threatened species now at increased risk of extinction.

However, Plibersek is widely expected to release bills in the coming days to establish the Environmental Protection Agency and an Australian Environmental Information office, which will provide data to the EPA.

Plibersek's spokesman said the government wanted environmental assessments to work “better for both business and nature”.

“We are working methodically on sensible updates to national environmental legislation, in line with what we have already announced as part of the positive plan for nature,” the spokesman said.

Biodiversity Council director James Trezise said taking national environmental reform in stages was too slow given the extinction crisis.


“New institutions like an EPA are unlikely to materially change the nature protection framework in Australia without strong national standards, clearer protections under the law and reformed recovery and threat reduction plans,” Trezise said. .

“The government made clear commitments to fix Australia's broken environmental laws within this deadline to tackle Australia's world record extinction. Failure to follow through on this would be exceptionally disappointing.”

Global warming is increasing the prevalence of marine heat waves and causing more frequent and severe coral bleaching. The global bleaching event is the fourth on record and the second in the last 10 years.

Coral bleaching has affected reefs in 53 jurisdictions since early last year, including Florida in the US, the Caribbean, the eastern tropical Pacific, including Mexico, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Panama and Colombia, the Great Barrier Reef of Australian Coral, large areas. of the South Pacific, including Fiji, Vanuatu, Tuvalu, Kiribati and Samoa, the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Aden.

WWF Australia's head of oceans, Richard Leck, said the global bleaching event showed that “no reef anywhere is safe from the impacts of climate change”.

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