BY NATASHA TRUELOVEWhile the news has been full of reports this week about Greta Thunberg refusing to accept an environmental award from the Nordic Council (because Eco, not Ego); and Coca Cola being named as the worst plastic polluter in the world for the second year in a row (sigh), you might have missed these five eco-news stories.
Over 240 conservation scientists have signed an open letter to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison urging him to drop his opposition to stronger environment laws and seize a “once-in-a-decade opportunity” to improve the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conversation Act (EPBC). The letter claims that in the next 20 years, 17 more native species could become extinct, largely due to the country’s immense deforestation.
“Our current laws are failing because they are too weak, have inadequate review and approval processes, and are not overseen by an effective compliance regime”, the scientists say. “Since they were established (in 1999), 7.7m hectares of threatened species habitat has been destroyed. That’s an area larger than Tasmania. Meanwhile, the number of extinctions continue to climb, while new threats emerge and spread unchecked.”
Earlier this year, Australia’s federal environment department admitted that it didn’t know whether the country’s recovery plans for formally listed threatened species were actually being implemented. Moreover, conservation groups found that the environment department’s spending has been cut by nearly 40 per cent since the Coalition was elected in 2013. Therefore, the signatories are hoping that the government will revamp the EPBC Act, so that it helps prevent the loss of nature rather than merely cataloguing it. As Suzanne Milthorpe, nature campaign manager for the Wilderness Society, puts it, “Extinction is a choice”.
Over 20 activists have been arrested whilst attempting to blockade an international mining conference at Melbourne’s Convention and Exhibition Centre, after violent clashes broke out between the group and police.
Callum, a protestor who did not wish to share his surname, claimed the police were being “extremely violent” towards the peaceful protestors. Other members of the group said police placed one man in a headlock and pushed another to the floor, as well as using capsicum spray.
Craig Ian McGown, chairman at Pioneer Resources and attendee of the conference, said he was “very confused” by the protestors’ actions. “I’m just in attendance at the conference because my company is involved in major projects that can help the country move forward.”
Conference organisers say the protest action is based on misconceptions about the mining industry and deputy prime minister, Michael McCormark, described the protests as “disgraceful, absolutely disgraceful”.
The Sydney Opera House has announced its commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development goal, placing it among a growing collective of global and Australian governments and community organisations that have made sustainability pledges over the past year.
The Opera House commitment will be celebrated by lighting the eastern Bennelong sail — the canvas for the nightly First Nations artwork Badu Gili — to show support for the global goals and help raise awareness of this important social and environmental call to action.
“The Opera House is committed to the ideals and values encapsulated in the Global Goals, which can only be achieved through global action,” Sydney Opera House CEO Louise Herron AM said. Likewise, Minister for the Arts Don Harwin commented, “As the symbol of modern Australia, the Opera House has an important role to play in inspiring the community. It is wonderful that our most famous landmark is putting its support behind this global initiative to help achieve a more sustainable and fulfilling future for all.”
Researchers have found that the north-west of Australia was once fringed by a giant chain of corals – a mirror image of the modern-day Great Barrier Reef. Jackson McCaffrey, lead researcher, said he was “definitely” surprised the by the size of the reef: "It got more and more striking, the more we looked at it."
100,000 km of seismic data showed that the striking reef emerged about 19 million years ago, said Stephen Gallagher, an Associate Professor of the University of Melbourne and one of McCaffrey's PhD supervisors. The reef system eventually grew to about 2000 kilometres – similar to today's Great Barrier Reef – but slowly drowned 10 million years ago as the sea floor subsided.
The ancient barrier reef's rise and near total disappearance can be used to give us guidance to understanding today's Great Barrier Reef, which did not exist at the same time, hopefully preventing its further demise.
Adani has been granted a reissued water licence to take up to 12.5bn litres a year from the Suttor River by the Queensland government by the 29 May, but the deadline for the outstanding $18.5 million payment has now been pushed back until mid-2021.
Adani says the reason for the delay is because the company is working through the implications of “legal challenges by activist groups”, and will pay once those matters are finalised. However, questions have been raised about the company’s claims that its Indian parent has allocated the required finance, since satellite images show little physical progress has been made since the notional start of construction in June.
Australia’s energy finance expert, Tim Buckley, says any notional finance allocated by the Adani group to the Carmichael project was still “sitting in India”, which means “by definition, the finance hasn’t come yet.” He added that Adani’s attempts to progress the Carmichael mine were “debt on debt on debt” and that was a good indication the Indian parent had at least some hesitation about the project, given the risks that remain from environmental activism, the diving price of thermal coal and additional regulatory hurdles, such as negotiating access to the Aurizon rail network.