Australia’s rising carbon emissions are expected to rise even further after the Baird Government successfully passed its controversial land clearing legislation in New South Wales Parliament today.
The new “biodiversity laws” are set to replace the state’s Native Vegetation Act, originally created to protect forest and land from extensive clearing.
Climate scientist Professor Will Steffen said the new laws are yet another blow to climate change progress in Australia, with the likely increase in clearing in NSW making it even harder for Australia to meet its Paris commitments.
“There are only bad climate outcomes from relaxing land-clearing regulations. The NSW Government needs to understand the impact an increase in land clearing will have on our emissions,” he said.
“Existing forests and dense woody vegetation are important in mitigating climate change by storing carbon away from the atmosphere.
“Converting these existing ecosystems to much less carbon-dense systems can have significant consequences for our emissions levels and weaken even further Australia’s already woefully inadequate efforts to tackle climate change.
Climate Councillor Professor Steffen said land clearing and disturbances such as bushfires and insect attacks can shift large amounts of carbon from the land back to the atmosphere.
“If significant areas of dense bushland are cleared, we will see significant emissions increases as a result. If the cleared land is converted to agriculture, then regrowth, which removes carbon from the atmosphere, will be prevented” he explained.
Although rapidly transitioning our energy systems away from fossil fuels is absolutely critical to tackle climate change, protecting carbon-dense land systems from clearing is also important.
“No government who claims to support action on climate change can, in good faith, relax land-clearing laws.”
The move comes as Federal Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg attend the COP22 summit in Morocco, outlining Australia’s plans and progress since ratifying the Paris Agreement last week.
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