Australia has joined a coalition of 60 countries that aims to stop the rapid decline of biodiverse species in its tracks by committing to protect at least 30% of the world’s land and ocean by 2030.
Prime minister Scott Morrison announced Australia would join the High Ambition Coalition (HAC) for Nature and People while attending the G7 Summit in Cornwall on Monday.
“Currently, Australia has more than 29% of its land and sea in protected areas, compared to 15% of land and 7% of seas globally,” Morrison said in a statement.
“We are well placed to make a strong contribution to a global ’30 by 30′ target and encourage other countries to do the same.”
The HAC is co-chaired by Costa Rica and France, with the United Kingdom as ocean co-chair.
Morrison said Australia supported the aim of an ‘ambitious’ post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, which will be delivered at the Convention on Biological Diversity in October.
Environment minister Sussan Ley said being part of the HAC would enable Australia to play a leadership role in negotiations at the convention, as well as in managing oceans, and promoting the ‘positive environmental outcomes we are achieving through our National Reserve System and Indigenous Protected Areas’.
Ley noted that the federal government was looking to increase Australia’s marine protected areas, which cover 37% of Australian waters, to up to 45%.
The Australian Conservation Foundation has welcomed the decision to join the HAC. However, it has called on the Morrison government to go one step further by committing to protect 30% of Australia’s land by 2030, and prioritising key biodiversity areas and ecosystems that are at risk of collapse.
“The 30% goal is very achievable for us, with more than 30% of our waters and around 20% of Australia’s land already protected in some form. Setting this goal is important because our unique wildlife, landscapes and seascapes are under threat like never before,” ACF’s nature campaigner Nathaniel Pelle said.
“A landmark study this year found 19 Australian ecosystems, including the Murray-Darling river system, are at risk of collapse.
“Australia has ancient landscapes and amazing wildlife, many of which are found nowhere else on earth – think koalas, platypus, bilbies, emus and Tasmanian devils. But Australia has the sad title of being a world leader in mammal extinctions.”
Pelle said that, amid a global ‘extinction crisis’ worsened by land clearing for agriculture, mining, and suburban development, the Convention on Biological Diversity would be the most important international biodiversity conference in ten years.