The extinction of Australia’s Bramble Cay melomys has been highlighted by the international scientific community as experts urge stronger environment laws to address accelerating global biodiversity destruction.

While the Morrison government rushes ahead with plans to weaken Australia’s environment law and devolve approval powers to the states, the fifth Global Biodiversity Outlook finds nature is in decline and needs ‘transformative change’ to help save it from over-exploitation, climate change, pollution, land- and sea-use change and invasive species.

The Outlook, released overnight, identifies “strengthening environment laws and policies and their implementation” as one of five key levers to address diminishing biodiversity.

“The world’s top biodiversity experts are warning of a global ‘extinction debt’ and the acceleration of species loss unless urgent conservation action is taken,” the Australian Conservation Foundation’s nature program manager Basha Stasak said.

“The planet is at a crossroads. Pressures driving unprecedented biodiversity decline are intensifying. But conservation action can work if rapid and well-resourced action is taken.

“The Australian government’s own report to the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity in March 2020 revealed the government failed to meet or measure the majority of its targets.

“Yet the Morrison government is trying to further weaken nature protection in rushed changes to the national environment law due to be debated in the Senate next month.

“Now, more than ever, we must strengthen that law – to set robust national standards and establish independent oversight of environmental approvals. There is too much at stake.

“Australia’s Bramble Cay melomys was the first recorded mammal species loss due to human-induced climate change. The tiny rodent, which lived on an island in the Torres Strait, was one of three Australian native species extinctions in the past decade.  Scientists predict a further 17 species could go extinct in the next 10 years. We’ll never get them back.

“The government must respect the once-in-a-decade independent review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act being conducted by Professor Graeme Samuel and protect our unique wildlife.”

The Global Biodiversity Outlook is produced by the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, a convention to which Australia is a party. It draws heavily on the assessments of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.

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