With more than 2,000 species now on the national threatened species list, it’s no exaggeration to say nature is at a crisis point in Australia. As the government prepares its first round of stakeholder consultation on the new nature laws, there are key components the laws must include to be effective in protecting nature. Below we’ve outlined what the new laws need to deliver:

Strong, and enforceable National Environmental Standards

The National Environment Standards were a key recommendation in the independent review of the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity (EPBC) Act. They should be, according to the review “the foundation” of the reform of the national environmental law.

Because the current Act is too focused on process and assessments, it’s failing to actually protect nature. The Standards will shift that focus to outcomes that the laws should deliver. That way we can be assured the law will protect nature rather than enabling its destruction. 

There should be key standards on matters such as Matters of National Environmental Significance, Regional Planning, Offsets, Community Engagement and Consultation and First Nations Participation and Engagement. Another important reform to accompany the Standards is that the new laws must make sure they can only be strengthened, not weakened in the future. 

Protect threatened plants and animals and their habitat

For too long, the EPBC Act has allowed the wanton destruction of threatened species habitat. With the Albanese government’s commitment to no new extinctions, this needs to be reflected in the new legislation.

The new laws must end the exemption of native forest logging from national environmental laws, tackle habitat loss through broadscale land clearing, and provide better protection of threatened species habitat.

With that protection in place, and strong legal enforcement, we can ensure the homes of critically endangered animals like the Leadbeater's Possum or the Far Eastern Curlew are protected.

With adequate protection, we can save the Far Eastern Curlew. Photo: Shutterstock

An independent National Environment Protection Agency

Right now, decisions under the EPBC Act are not independent or free from political influence.

We need an independent and well-funded EPA to make decisions on individual projects, and enforce compliance with the new Act. To have an independent well-resourced body able to make good decisions, will increase transparency and trust in the way decisions are made and lead to better outcomes for nature.

Prevent climate harm 

Currently, new fossil fuel projects are assessed and approved under the EPBC Act without consideration of their impacts on climate change.

New laws must be up to preventing climate harm by rejecting proposals that contribute to climate harm, increasing protections for ecosystems that absorb carbon, and ensuring that the laws are capable of responding to climate change impacts. 

Right now, the government is preparing to start consulting on the detail about how the EPBC Act will be re-written ahead of the introduction of the proposed new laws to Parliament next year. It’s up to all of us to let the government know ambitious action is needed. If we don’t get these laws right, we’re failing to protect nature now and into the future. Will you email your MP to let them know these laws need to work?

Email your MP

Brendan Sydes

National Biodiversity Policy Adviser