Australian news, and some related international items

Coalition’s push to deregulate environmental approvals will lead to extinction crisis

Scientists fear Coalition’s push to deregulate environmental approvals will lead to extinction crisis
Scott Morrison’s announcement in wake of bushfires is ‘distressing’ and puts threatened species at risk, ecologists say,
Guardian,   Lisa Cox, Tue 16 Jun 2020  Scientists have expressed dismay and frustration at Scott Morrison’s latest push to deregulate the environmental approval process for major developments, noting it comes just months after an unprecedented bushfire crisis and during a review of national conservation laws.In a speech on Monday, the prime minister said he wanted to slash approval times for major projects by moving to a streamlined “single touch” system for state and federal environmental assessments.

Morrison said the change would be informed by the review of Australia’s environment laws, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act, which is under way. But his speech did not mention the environment or the act’s objectives to protect threatened species and ecosystems. ……

Scientists and environmentalists argue the act is failing to prevent an extinction crisisJust 22 of 6,500 projects referred for approval have been knocked back in the act’s 20-year history.

Australia has the world’s highest rate of mammalian extinction. Reporting by Guardian Australia has found the government has failed to implement or track measures for species known to be at risk, stopped listing major threats to species, and not registered a single piece of critical habitat for 15 years.

The listing of species and ecosystems as threatened has been delayed by successive ministers, funding has been directed to projects that did not benefit threatened species and hundreds of plants and animals have been identified as requiring urgent attention after the summer bushfire disaster.

The government has framed its commentary about the review around a desire to speed up approval times for projects as the country moves out of the economic shutdown caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. …..

Megan Evans, an environmental policy researcher at the University of New South Wales in Canberra, said one of the reasons approvals could be slow was because the capacity of the public service had been cut. …… we have highly ambiguous wording [in the act] which provides maximum discretion to the minister that reduces certainty and puts all power in the hands of the minister of the day. You can’t on one hand complain about the lack of certainty but then on the other shy away from measures that would actually provide greater certainty.”

The climate scientist, Bill Hare, said Australia’s approach to its natural environment was damaging not only for the country’s ecosystems, but its democracy……..

June 16, 2020 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, politics

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