Saturday, 25 June 2016


Climate change has not featured as a major issue so far in the federal election campaign. 

Both major parties have targets for emissions reductions which both claim can be achieved.  The Coalition target is a 26-28% reduction relative to 2005 levels by 2030 and Labor’s is a 45% cut over the same time frame.

Despite the politicians’confident claims, the effectiveness of their policies in meeting their targets is debatable.The Climate Change Authority saw a need for much stronger action, recommending 40-60% reductions relative to 2000 levels by 2030.

Political policy is obviously developed with community attitudes in mind.  Just how much community support is there for strong action on climate change?

Sydney University of Technology lecturer Deborah Cotton, who conducted a survey of community attitudes to climate policy in 2011, recently conducted another survey to see whether attitudes had changed.

Cotton says results suggest that concern about the climate is more widespread now than it was five years ago.  Now 75% of people believe it is an important global issue and 74% believe it was an important issue for Australia.

She says, “As to what we should do about it, we found that 57% of people want Australia to act on climate change irrespective of whether other countries do or not. This is significantly more than in 2011, when 50% of people were in this category.”

Many of those concerned about the need for urgent and much more effective climate action would like to see the profile of this issue raised in what is left of this long and tedious election campaign.

Recent events which have already raised the profile of climate change include the coral bleaching and along the Great Barrier Reef and elsewhere and the recent ferocious east coast low storm.

Effective and urgent climate action is not something we can put off.  It is vital for future generations of humans and other species.  It is also vital for our economic future that we implement strong measures now. Not doing so would lay an enormous economic as well as environmental burden on our children and grandchildren.
 - Leonie Blain

Tuesday, 21 June 2016


A marked absence of any real focus on environmental matters by either of the two major political parties in the current drawn-out federal election campaign prompted a strategy meeting to be held by NSW North Coast environmental groups recently.

At the head of the list of concerns is the almost total lack of any proposal for meaningful action on climate change.

Carbon emissions need to be reduced urgently. Protecting forests is an important and effective form of carbon sequestration that the government could act on immediately.

It was pointed out that the 20 million trees program, promoted under the current government's Direct Action policy, would be more than offset by the number of trees being destroyed by the Pacific Highway upgrade in the Clarence Valley alone.

The dumping of the NSW Native Vegetation Act and proposed relaxing of restrictions on land clearing in NSW, under the State Government's new Biodiversity Bill, will further exacerbate the problem, and positive actions to promote revegetation of the landscape were identified. 

In particular, the meeting reminded all political parties that, “Forests are the lungs of the earth.. They take in the carbon dioxide we emit, store the carbon and give us life-giving oxygen in return. They are vital to mitigate the impacts of climate change with the urgency required to halt the demise of the Great Barrier Reef”.

The meeting agreed that an effective way to achieve immediate positive results would be to:
  • stop logging of native forests on public land.
  • stop clearing of native forests on private land, and
  • stop proposed burning of forests to generate electricity.
At the same time politicians were urged to support the imposition of a carbon trading scheme that would provide landowners with an alternative income stream to logging, Furthermore, landowners should be rewarded for protecting and rehabilitating native forests, protecting biodiversity, and restoring wildlife corridors and stream buffers.

Actions that reduce atmospheric carbon would not only help the Great Barrier Reef, and other ecosystems under threat from climate change, but also help replace the habitat of hundreds of threatened species already facing extinction through habitat loss, including Australia's iconic Koalas.

-          John Edwards

Saturday, 11 June 2016


The Nature Conservation Council of NSW (NCC) is concerned that the NSW Government’s recently released proposed Biodiversity Conservation legislation will lead to further loss of koalas in western NSW.
The increase in land clearing resulting from this weakening of native vegetation protection laws, plus the impact of climate change, are seen as likely to lead to koala extinction in the west of the state.

NCC CEO Kate Smolski said, “Land clearing is one of the biggest threats to our koalas in NSW, particularly in the state’s western regions where its habitat has become severely fragmented by more than 200 years of tree-clearing.”

She has called on Premier Baird to go back to the drawing board on the legislation if he wants to ensure the koala’s long-term survival.

Concerns about the survival of the koala in NSW and Queensland led to its listing as vulnerable under the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act in 2012.

There is good reason for this concern.  On the east coast koala numbers declined more than 40% between 1990 and 2010.   In the west, in the Pilliga Forest for example, an area that was formerly a stronghold for the species, a 2013 survey found that the population had crashed by 75% in 10 years.  So that population is now considered highly endangered.

Key threats to koala survival are habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, predation from dogs, vehicle strike, disease, drought, climate change and inbreeding.

Koalas are not the only species under threat from these new laws.   Many other fauna and flora species will suffer if there is a return to broadscale land clearing.

The NCC is calling for improvements in the proposed legislation to safeguard the future of the natural environment. 

One of these improvements is ruling out clearing bushland that is critical habitat for threatened wildlife.
Another is development of a scheme to pay “cash for compensation” to support farmers who protect wildlife, healthy soils and pure water supplies.

And another is comprehensive mapping of the state’s 1500 vegetation communities.

Submissions can be made on the proposed legislation until 28 June.
-          Leonie Blain

 This  post originally appeared in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on 23rd May, 2016. 

Monday, 6 June 2016


 On Friday June 3 the Clarence Valley’s contribution to World Environment Day (June 5) was held in Grafton.  Nearly 50 people attended the ninth annual ReWeavers Dinner in which three people – Leonie Blain and Sharon Lehman of Grafton and Helen Tyas Tunggal of Angourie – were honoured for their outstanding contributions to our Earth Community.
Leonie’s early work included the Daishowa pulp mill and Regional Water Supply campaigns.  More recently she has been involved in the unconventional gas-mining campaign and climate change issues.  Leonie was a foundation member of the Clarence Valley Conservation Coalition and has been secretary since 1991.  One spokesman stated, “This group’s existence would have terminated long ago except for Leonie’s efforts.”  She is also an active member of many local committees such as Council’s Climate Change Community Advisory Committee.

Sharon came to the Clarence 22 years ago and has been very much involved in searching for ways to make environmental education and communication more effective.  She has a very strong sense of wholeness and the social aspect of our Earth Community is very important to her.  Three major projects she has initiated are Waste Not Want Not, Clarence Valley Conservation in Action and Hands on Nature.  Her work illustrates many aspects of the Earth Charter, one of the world’s great Earth Community documents.

Helen as principal of Harwood Island Public School led the development of the school as a centre of excellence in environmental education.  Over the past 25 years Helen has continued to refine the Learnscapes Planning and Design Process, developed the Clarence Water ambassador education program, written the Kidsgrow school gardening resources and received the 2007 NSW Environmental Educator of the Year award.  She has been a long-serving member of local environment groups including Valley Watch and Angourie Coastcare.

The ReWeavers Certificates were presented by Alan Jeffery, Regional Manager, North Coast NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Alan Jeffrey, Helen Tyas Tunggal, Leonie Blain, Sharon Lehman.