Australia’s national environment group has cautiously welcomed a Morrison government proposal for a scheme to encourage private investment in protecting and restoring biodiversity.
The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) said the Agriculture Biodiversity Stewardship Market Bill, introduced to federal parliament today, must be carefully examined to make sure it is effective in delivering environmental outcomes.
“There is a pressing need to restore nature in Australia, where nearly 8 million hectares of threatened species habitat has been destroyed since 2000 and we have one of the world’s worst extinction rates,” said ACF’s national biodiversity policy adviser Sophie Power.
“Even the Bogong moth and the Grey-headed flying fox – species that were once common – have recently been added to a global threatened species list.
“With the global nature funding gap estimated to be more than $1 trillion a year, it makes sense for governments to leverage private investment to help restore biodiversity.
“The most important thing is to make sure this scheme is good for nature – it must genuinely and verifiably enhance environmental outcomes.
“While private sector involvement in conservation is welcome and necessary, restoring nature is unquestionably in the public interest and needs significant public investment.
“The scheme should align with Australia’s existing environment law – which needs reform – and be open to a range of landholders – not just farmers, but also private land conservation organisations, traditional owners and community-based landscape restoration groups.
“Care must be taken to make sure the scheme has genuine integrity and strong governance arrangements.
“ACF urges the parliament to make sure this legislation is carefully designed so the resulting scheme is effective in genuinely protecting and restoring nature in Australia.”
When Environment Minister Sussan Ley signed the Kunming Declaration last year she committed Australia to ‘reverse the current loss of biodiversity’ and ‘align all financial flows in support of the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.’