Connector Newsletter Issue 37


April 11, 2023

by Jo McCoy 

A gentle warning to readers that I find myself straying into areas that some might regard as political commentary later in this piece.  I try to avoid that in this forum, but given the recent announcements from our Federal Government surrounding both climate and environmental policy and the absolute importance of both to the work of the Biosphere and the wider community, I’ve gone there. Please note that these are my personal opinions. 

Strategic Planning 

The board held its annual planning day in February to help us confirm elements of the next iteration of our Strategic Plan to be launched by June 2023. The main features of the Plan including the vision, purpose and mission statements along with strategic objectives and principles have been workshopped with the staff and will be further tested in coming months through consultation with key stakeholders including our council members and partners.  Please be on the lookout for your opportunity to participate.  

Climate Policy 

In the last edition of Connector, I touched on the issue of our new Federal Government’s signature climate policy and its potential local impact. The Safeguard Mechanism is now set to force industrial polluters to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.  See the Climate Council’s explainer. In positive signs, BlueScope Steel’s Chief Executive has already endorsed the recent changes.  See Safeguard mechanism wins backing of BlueScope Steel  

While it’s great to see that Australia finally has climate legislation in place after more than a decade of inaction, it’s disappointing that our political parties are not yet all on the same page on this issue.  That’s despite the most recent IPPC report and its very sobering warnings about the dire consequences we all face, if immediate, more significant action is not taken.  See the IPCC press release or go to the full document. 

We have seen that bipartisanship on major policy is possible as evidenced by the recent decision to invest $368 billion over three decades on nuclear-powered submarines. It’s beyond time that our politicians agreed that the clear and present dangers we face are the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss, more so than the theoretical threat of hostilities with China.   

On the topic of biodiversity loss, I’ll aim to focus instead on remaining upbeat and positive. This was the advice given by the very excellent Nicola Toki, CEO of Forest and Bird New Zealand who gave an inspiring and very funny keynote at the recent Women in Conservation Breakfast on International Women’s Day. See Nicola Toki | LinkedIn 

A Market for Biodiversity 

Elsewhere in our Federal government, Minister Plibersek has introduced the Nature Repair Market Bill to parliament. See also – Nature Repair Market – DCCEEW and Agrithinking: nature repair market: KWM.  This legislation, if passed, would “establish a market for biodiversity certificates that would be regulated by the Clean Energy Regulator and traded similar to Australian Carbon Credit Units”.  Landholders including First Nations people, conservation groups, governments and farmers, would be paid for projects such as planting native species, removing feral cats and weeds or fencing livestock out of waterway.  

On the face of it, this sounds great. Any mechanism which supports the production of ecosystem services and increases investment in protecting and repairing our environment is worth exploring.  According to Prof. David Lindenmayer from the ANU’s Fenner School of Environment and Society, this could help motivate farmers to do some science-based, evidence-based work on their land. He also adds that monitoring compliance, input and outcomes would be critical to ensuring that nature repair markets worked and that a biodiversity dividend was achieved.   

Given that this legislation builds on a similar plan and pilot implemented by the former Agriculture Minister – David Littleproud, it is to be hoped that the aforementioned bipartisanship might be achieved and that the objectives of the legislation are realised.   

As might be anticipated though, when it comes to important legislation, there will always be groups who advocate for improvements. See for example the submission from the Australian Conservation Foundation.  I will be watching the progression of this legislation with some interest and look forward to the contributions of the Greens and the crossbench along with other key players.   

At the very least, the media surrounding both these issues hopefully means that the impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss remain high in people’s consciousness and inspire action at the local as well as national and international level. 

Please feel free to write to me at [email protected] if you have any comments or suggestions for issues or updates that you would like to see included on the website and/or addressed in future editions of Connector. 

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