South West Catchments Council is one of 54 Natural Resource Management (NRM) organisations across Australia who are responsible for regional environmental planning and delivery of programs to support healthy and productive country, viable communities and sustainable industries. This year’s Regional NRM CEO’s Forum took place in Canberra on 19th July, coinciding with the release of the Federal Government’s State of the Environment Report 2021 and Minister Plibersek’s address to the Press Club (available here).
The State of the Environment Report provides a sobering, but not entirely surprising, read. Every category, except for the urban environment (which has remained neutral), has deteriorated since the 2016 report. During this period, we’ve seen a decrease in government spending on the environment and increasing pressures from climate change, invasive species, land clearing and industry pushing ecosystems to the brink. In her address, Minister Plibersek stated that the new Labor Government is dedicated to reversing this trend and made a number of commitments to:
- Protect 30% of the land and ocean by 2030 (noting that we have already protected 45% of the ocean and 22% of the land, source)
- Double the number of Aboriginal Rangers by 2030
- Include environmental indicators in the new Government’s ‘Wellbeing Budget’
- Overhaul Australia’s environmental legislation and Environmental Protection Agency.
Despite the contents of the State of the Environment Report, delegates at the CEO’s Forum were optimistic about the future. They heard from a variety of Federal Government representatives, including those below, who reiterated that more needs to be done to protect, restore and manage the environment:
- Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
- Head of Biodiversity & Conservation at the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water
- Head of Biodiversity Markets, Economics and Environmental Science at the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water
- National Soils Advocate
- Threatened Species Commissioner
Key priorities echoed by speakers included mitigating and adapting to climate change, building empowerment of First Nations people and enhancing collaboration to allow landscape-scale improvements.
However, it was recognised that the Government can’t do this alone – now is the time for businesses and the community to invest in our collective futures. We heard from Professor Andrew Macintosh of Australian National University about the market levers being developed to allow natural capital to be appropriately measured, valued and funded. This includes existing markets for carbon, but also upcoming markets for biodiversity and other environmental benefits. We were humbled to hear that Professor Macintosh sees regional NRM organisations like ours as honest brokers and truth tellers in this space, providing long term integrity across environmental markets.
Whilst we are undoubtedly faced with unprecedented environmental challenges, SWCC is optimistic that, collectively, we have the solutions and the commitment to overcome them. To join us in building a more resilient, liveable future, you can donate to the cause here or contact us to discuss collaboration or investment opportunities.