'Comprehensive failure': Australia makes it onto 'infamous' list

·2-min read

Australia is the only developed nation named on an “infamous” list.

The World Wild Fund for Nature (WWF) named Australia as one of the 24 worst culprits for deforestation which together equalled 43 million hectares of forest.

Among the 24 countries named are Brazil, Indonesia, Colombia and Cameroon.

Australia was seen as one of 10 of the 24 at “medium deforestation” and the report claims there has been “a comprehensive failure” by agricultural developers to observe the law, and the regulator to enforce The National Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act of 1999.

WWF-Australia conservation scientist Dr Martin Taylor said the east coast remains a deforestation front despite efforts made by the Queensland government in 2018.

A map shows deforestation in Australia.
Deforestation along Australia's east coast has seen the country named as one of the world's worst culprits. Source: WWF

In 2018, the Palaszczuk government passed a number of laws to cut down land-clearing.

“Land clearing rates rocketed after the axing of restrictions in Queensland and NSW placing eastern Australia alongside the most infamous places in the world for forest destruction,” Dr Taylor said.

“Despite Queensland restoring some restrictions in 2018, eastern Australia remains a deforestation front. That will not change until we see rates of destruction go down.”

What’s causing Australia’s deforestation?

The analysis didn’t include Australia’s bushfires at the end of 2019 to the start of 2020 as WWF considered them “too recent”. The bushfires burnt through more than 17 million hectares of land.

Instead, it looked at data from 2004 to 2017 and claims continued deforestation will just lead to more bushfires.

Cattle ranching was blamed as the number one reason for Australia’s deforestation ahead of unsustainable logging as a “secondary cause”.

A man and his daughter walk along the burnt trees at Bastion Beach where locals and tourists were evacuated last year in Mallacoota, Australia.
A man and his daughter walk along the burnt trees at Bastion Beach in NSW which was ravaged by bushfires 12 months ago. Source: Getty Images

“In eastern Australia, by far the most significant driver is cattle ranching, with other forms of large-scale agriculture declining slightly,” the report reads.

“Fires are increasing and were particularly devastating in 2020 but are not generally associated with long-term conversion of forests to other uses, and were not included within the timeline of our analysis. Logging remains significant in some places.”

Small-scale agriculture and immigration along with mining were also blamed but seen as “less important”.

“To stop extinction Australia needs to step up our efforts to protect critical forest habitats for Australian wildlife, particularly unburned low fire-risk refuges, and let those that have been cleared regenerate,” Dr Taylor said.

“WWF wants this to be the last time Australia winds up on this infamous list of deforestation fronts.”

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