Tanya Plibersek Pledges “Zero New Extinctions” In Australia With New Environment Policy

"Unlike the previous government, I’m not going to accept extinctions as inevitable."

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The Federal Government has unveiled plans to completely curb animal and plant extinctions in Australia, as part of a pledge for “zero new extinctions” across the country from 2022.

Thirty percent of Australia’s landmass will be targeted for increased conservation and protection under the Threatened Species Action Plan: a ten-year conservation strategy aimed at halting animal and plant extinctions.

“Our current approach has not been working. If we keep doing what we’ve been doing, we’ll keep getting the same results,” said Minister for the Environment, Tanya Plibersek in a statement introducing the policy.

The strategy will focus on 110 priority species at risk of extinction, as well as 20 habitats like Kakadu, Kangaroo, and Norfolk Islands. While 1,800 plants and animals remain endangered species in Australia, Plibersek argued that the policy would create strong foundations of protection on which to build on in the future.

“By protecting 20 priority places, that give us a really broad range of Australian landscapes and ecosystems, we can create little Noah’s arks, places that we can be confident we are returning to healthy populations of plants and animals.”

Nature program manager for the Australian Conservation Foundation, Basha Stasak told Junkee that the policy was “incredibly significant” considering Australia’s track record of having the worst extinction rate of mammals in the world.

“It’s really great to see the Australian government be at the forefront of this and set that as a goal for Australia, especially since so many of our species can found nowhere else on earth. 80 percent of Australian wildlife species are unique, so once they go extinct here they’re gone forever,” said Stasak.

However, despite the target of zero new extinctions, Stasak believes the government’s ambitions were not matched by the amount of money allocated to the policy, which at present is $224.5 million.

“We know that scientists have estimated that about 1.69 billion is required to recover our current threatened species, [the government’s target] does realistically fall a bit short of that.”

Stasak said that the effectiveness of the plan will also depend on the integration of an independent Australian environment protection agency, which the government has promised to implement by the end of the year.

“The State of Environment report found 7.7 million hectares of threatened land has been cleared between 2000 and 2017,” Stasak explained. “Of that, 7.1 million hectares — 93 percent — was destroyed without any federal approval or attempt to seek federal approval under our national environment laws, so we face a real compliance problem.”