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