Despite broad scientific consensus that global warming is having a significant impact on endangered species, the majority of the federal government’s threat assessments and recovery actions fail to adequately account for climate change, new research reveals.

The Australian Conservation Foundation commissioned GreenLaw to review all Recovery Plans and Conservation Advices for critically endangered species and ecological communities under the Environmental Protection & Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act.

The research found:

  • Climate change impacts are omitted from the conservation documents for 178 of 334 critically endangered species and ecological communities.
  • The Conservation Advice for the endangered Spectacled flying fox describes climate change as a ‘potential’ future threat, even though a heatwave in December 2018 killed more than 23,000 of the bats – almost one third of the species’ population in Australia.
  • The endangered Mahogany glider does not have a Conservation Advice. The species’ Recovery Plan, which was issued in 2008, does not mention climate change at all, even though the gliders are vulnerable to increased temperatures and habitat changes.

“Our results demonstrate there is a significant climate gap in the management of Australia’s threatened species,” said GreenLaw CEO and lead researcher, Annika Reynolds.

“Many conservation documents for endangered species do not even identify climate change as a threat, this gap occurs even in cases where the species is known to suffer from extreme heat and drought, while other documents acknowledge global warming, but state it is ‘beyond the scope of the plan’ to propose measures to address the threat.

“Generalised statements about climate threats restrict recovery actions to a shorter time frame and limit the effectiveness of conservation planning, undermining species recovery.”

Brendan Sydes, the Biodiversity Policy Adviser for ACF, said:

“The fact that conservation plans deal so poorly with the well-known threat of climate change demonstrates the longstanding failure of the Australian government to get serious about helping endangered species recover.

“While the government proposes to abandon Recovery Plans for most threatened species and communities, this report shows why we should invest more in conservation planning. 

“ACF urges the federal government to update all Recovery Plans and Conservation Advices using the best available science and allocate more funding to endangered species research so we can understand the specific challenges facing each species.”

The Federal Government’s five-yearly State of the Environment report is due early in 2022.

Read the full GreenLaw report here

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