Monday 21 March 2022


On International Day of Forests it is essential that we recognise that forests support our civilisation, climate and biodiversity. Forests are under unprecedent threat due to increasing droughts, heatwaves, wildfires and floods. At the very time we need them to take our carbon out of the atmosphere and store it safely in their wood and soils, and to mitigate flooding by storing and slowing the water during extreme rainfall events.

Big old trees are awesome, hundreds of years old, towering 8-12 stories high, apartment complexes for hollow-dependent animals with larders for Koalas, gliders, possums and a multitude of honeyeaters.

Forests improve our health, generate rainfall, cool the land, regulate streamflows, sequester and store carbon, reduce flood risk by storing water and slowing flows, reduce landslips by reinforcing soils, and support most of our biodiversity.

Nineteen Australian ecosystems have been identified as already in collapse. In the marine environment climate change is causing the decline of the Great Barrier Reef which once again is ravished by another mass coral bleaching event. Most of the giant kelp forests off southern Australia have already gone, and many species are moving south as the waters warm.

Forest ecosystems identified as already collapsing are: Mountain ash forest; Murray-Darling River Basin – riverine; Gondwanan conifer forest; Wet Tropical Rainforest; Mediterranean-type Forests and Woodlands; Australian Tropical Savanna; and Mangrove forests.  

NSW’s coastal forests are suffering similar fate as droughts and heatwaves kill multitudes of trees and animals, spreading dieback through degraded forests, while increasing wildfires are eliminating our alpine forests and burning a third of our rainforests in the Black Summer bushfires.

Last month the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that many forests have already been severely affected by climate heating, with many forest ecosystems likely to collapse if heating exceeds 1.5oC for too long. Australia has already warmed by 1.4oC, our forests can’t afford anymore.

Humans depend on the world’s forests to absorb a third of our annual emissions of carbon and store it out of harms way. As trees die, and forests collapse, they stop removing our carbon and release the vast quantities they store. Losing our forests threatens runaway climate heating.

Stopping climate heating not only requires us to stop our emissions, it also depends on removing more carbon from the atmosphere, and we need trees to do it.

Logged native forests have already lost over half the carbon they once stored, if we allow them to recover they can remove huge volumes from the atmosphere and help us deal with this existential crisis.

Logging of forests dries them, increases fire risk, reduces stream flows, increases flood risk, reduces nectar, reduces tree hollows, spreads weeds, creates erosion, and makes them more vulnerable to collapse.   

Last October at the UN Biodiversity Conference Australia signed onto the Kunming Declaration, saying we supported the commitment to “protect 30 per cent globally of land areas and of sea areas” by 2030. Last November at COP 26 Australia signed on to the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use with the aspirational goal “to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030”.

NSW has only protected 9% of our land area (18% nationally). We have a long way to go to honour our commitments and there is not much time left.

We must act immediately to turn the accelerating climate and biodiversity crises around before it is too late. Two easy changes we need to make are stopping logging public native forests and stopping clearing forests.

If the NSW and Federal Governments continue to refuse to do so, it is your responsibility to stand up and speak out to make them.

    _ Dailan Pugh, NEFA President.


Monday 14 March 2022



The Climate Council reported on January 21 that deaths by heat are increasing, while our governments continue to overlook the plight of Australian people at the forefront of impact by climate change.


In 2018-19 Alice Springs residents battled for 55 days in above 40C temperatures. The 2019-20 bushfires are indelibly imprinted in countless memories, and this summer Western Australians have suffered through the most searing, prolonged temperatures on record, again with drastic bushfires. Yet the federal government, whose main job it is to protect the safety and well-being of Australian people, stubbornly persists with a gas-led economy, funds new fossil fuel projects, and trashes international climate negotiations while spouting about how well they are doing - as leaders of the worst globally performing country on climate action.


While heat-related deaths are thought to be well under-reported, the World Health Organisation estimates that climate change is currently responsible for approximately 150,000 deaths a year. Research shows that heatwaves are responsible for more Australian deaths than all other extreme weather events together, and that over 36,000 Australians died from extreme heat in the decade from 2006 to 2017.


While we have yet to see details come out about the Western Australian disasters, Australian doctors are now calling for heat to be recorded on death certificates, to enable a more accurate estimate of heat impacts on Australian lives.


One Canadian doctor has also set the bar by recording climate change as cause for a patient's admission, noting that heatwave conditions would not have occurred without human-generated global warming.


The good news is that significant public opposition and court rulings are forcing our governments to change their minds on a few highly negative decisions, while private renewable uptake is bringing down energy prices in South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria.


However it still remains with the Australian people whether we have a government that spends $10.3 billion a year on subsidies for major coal, oil and gas companies, or leaders who will use taxpayer money to ensure a cleaner, healthier and safer future for us all.


- Patricia Edwards

Published in the "Voices for the Earth" column in The Clarence Valley Independent , February 2, 2022.