Australians love nature — it’s a part of who we are. But not everyone understands that our nature and ecosystems are in crisis. The new report on the State of our Environment lays out some hard truths — here’s why it’s important. 

What is the State of the Environment Report?

Every five years, the Australian government releases a comprehensive assessment of the state of our environment. It's when we find out how healthy — or sick — our animals, forests, rivers, oceans, climate, communities and cities really are.  

The report includes updates on some of our most unique animals and plants. It determines the health of our environment now, based on the last 5 years since the last report in 2016. For example, it assesses our climate and the state of Country after the bushfires.

SoE_small_animal.jpgPhoto: Bradda/Shutterstock

What does the 2021 State of the Environment Report say?

The new report is out and unfortunately it reveals even further declines in the health of our incredible plants, animals and ecosystems.

Our animals and plants are in decline, with more threatened with extinction than ever. Our towns and cities are becoming harder to live in. And our bushland ecosystems have not recovered after the Black Summer bushfires. 

Pressures that have been outlined in previous reports such as climate change, habitat destruction and invasive species – are becoming worse and will continue to result in destroying nature and driving wildlife to extinction. 

The report also warns of impending disaster if we do not take urgent action:

  • Australia has lost more mammal species than any other continent and continues to have one of the highest rates of species decline among countries in the OECD. The number of new species listed or listed in a higher category of threat has grown by 8% since 2016 and will increase substantially in coming years because of the 2019–20 bushfires.
  • Australia now has more foreign plant species than native
  • The true number of extinctions is likely to be significantly higher because many species are poorly surveyed or poorly described, or both.

The situation is even more dire than we expected. We need the government to listen to these findings, and take swift and bold action to prevent even further biodiversity loss. 


SoE_Koala.jpgPhoto: Doug Gimesy

Who writes the State of the Environment Report? 

The State of the Environment report is always written by leading environmental scientists. This time, it also includes important First Nations perspectives to ensure Indigenous views, values and knowledge inform decision-making for better environmental outcomes.

The report’s co-chief author is Dr Terri Janke, a Wuthathi/Meriam woman and an international authority on Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property. Fellow co-chief authors are Professor Emma Johnston and Dr Ian Cresswell — two of Australia’s most distinguished environmental scientists who served as lead authors during the 2016 State of the Environment report.

Why report on the state of our environment? 

Some Australians know our nature and climate is in trouble but the majority (84%) still believe our environment is in excellent, good or fair shape.

This regular report highlights what’s really at stake so we can save our big backyard, our wonderful wildlife and build safe communities and a healthy environment. 

When we understand the problem, we can come together to demand solutions. 

SoE_trees.jpgPhoto: Cathy Ronalds/MAPgroup

What is meant by ‘our environment’? 

Our environment is not just our animals and plants, landscapes and waterways. It is our air quality and cities. Our climate, and the extreme weather we face. It’s the interconnected way we all live together on Country, and on this planet. 

SoE_floods.jpgPhoto: Chad Ajamian

What are the main threats to nature and our environment?

The biggest threats to nature and our environment are:

  • Habitat destruction and land clearing for agriculture, mining, logging, transport and urban sprawl 
  • Invasive species 
  • Fire
  • Climate change.
  • Pollution 

The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act is the central piece of Australia’s environmental protection framework. It’s meant to protect the air we breathe, the water we drink and the places and wildlife we love. Yet it is clearly failing.

The once-in-a-decade Independent Review of our national environment laws found they are failing to protect nature in Australia. 

SoE_logging.jpgPhoto: Ali Sanderson

What are the solutions?

If we halt and reverse nature destruction in Australia we can ensure the state of the environment is better in 2030 than it is now.  

The Australian Government can do this by:  

  • Creating strong environment laws that actually protect nature and an independent regulator to enforce them. 
  • Funding the recovery of Australia’s threatened species and the restoration of our degraded ecosystems.
  • Slashing climate pollution by more than half this decade and supporting nature as a climate solution.
  • Lead on ambitious global goals for nature, that stop biodiversity destruction, end extinction and restore nature to better health

Businesses can also do this by reducing their harmful impacts on nature and aiming to have a positive impact. 

The report gives us evidence that can help shape policy and action, shift behaviour and make strong plans to end extinction, restore our forests and wetlands, make our cities more liveable, and ultimately solve our nature and climate crises.

SoE_forest.jpgPhoto: Annette Ruzicka/MAPgroup

Our environment needs swift, bold action

With our environment under more pressure than ever, we can use the release of this five-yearly report as a moment to highlight the twin climate and extinction crises — and call for swift, bold action.

We have the solutions  — strong laws, adequate funding, climate action and global goals for nature— but how do we get them in place?  

  • We work with local MPs to gain their support for strong environment laws. The more leaders who stand with us, the more pressure lands on our federal government to act. 
  • We support our incredible community groups to engage local people and businesses in their electorates across the country, amplifying the call for local leaders to support strong environment laws. 
  • And we talk to peak business and industry groups about the critical steps to protect and restore nature, communities and businesses. 

This is what it will take for forests, wetlands and bushlands to be protected and restored — so they can store greenhouse gases, provide homes for our unique animals and birds, and be a place where we connect with nature, and ourselves. 

How can I help protect our environment?

We can protect and restore the forests, rivers, oceans and wildlife we depend on – and push government and business to do the same. So that by the end of the decade nature is healthier than it is today.

Bold and urgent action can turn this around. Spending just 5 minutes to write a compelling, unique email to your local MP now – before our new Parliament sits for the first time next week – can make a huge difference. Message your local MP with our email tool here.

To support our beloved Australian wildlife, join us this September and take part in the platy-project month of action. You’ll help researchers understand more about this iconic animal, and how we can better protect it. Details can be found here

Header image: Annette Ruzicka/MAPgroup

Australian Conservation Foundation