Two Aussie states have received a “very poor” report card from Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF), which has assessed the nation’s efforts to preserve forests.
While South Australia topped the list, it has very little to be proud of as it received an “average” rating.
WWF-Australia’s land clearing and restoration expert Dr Stuart Blanch said while some states have made progress, NSW and Queensland are “dragging the nation down”. You can read the full report here.
Surprisingly, Queensland fared slightly higher than NSW on the rankings. This is because it committed to ending native forest logging in its southeast by 2024. NSW environment minister Penny Sharpe’s office has given no indication it has immediate plans to end the practice, despite Australia facing a biodiversity crisis.
Why wasn't Queensland last in the rankings?
Satellite imagery and government policy were analysed by the global conservation charity in order to create its list. Queensland allows around 10 times more forest to be destroyed each year than NSW. But it does have a $500 million land restoration fund to help farmers protect woodland and this was one of the policies that helped it from the bottom.
Victoria's pledge to end native forest logging by 2024 helped its rankings — it's something the South Australian government has already achieved and Western Australia has committed to do.
But native timber harvesting is far from the only industry destroying forests — bulldozing land for farming and other new developments erase far more trees.
Why launch an Australian tree scorecard?
Australia’s first national Trees Scorecard was launched by WWF after the federal government committed to the Glasgow Forest Declaration at COP26 to halt and reverse forest loss by 2030.
“We support it, I think it’s a great commitment, but we are not on track to do that in only seven years,” Dr Blanch told Yahoo News Australia.
“We thought a scorecard would be a good way to assess how the state, territory and federal governments are going on land clearing, logging and restoration. We hope this will be a mechanism to assess performance, celebrate good progress and reforms, and highlight where more work needs to be done.”
Why Australia needs to protect its trees
Dr Blanch believes the “real lesson” governments can take from the first scorecard is that no government even achieved a “good” ranking. The poor rankings should come as no surprise, given the woeful rank WWF gave Australia for its species extinction efforts in 2022.
“Trees are a nature-based solution to the climate crisis. Without forests and woodlands, we cannot cut our national carbon emissions as speedily as we need to,” he said.
“We cannot avoid further species extinctions and listings of endangered species like koalas and greater gliders on the east coast if we continue to degrade and remove forests. Protecting trees does double duty for nature and climate.”
Dr Blanch warns that Australia has only two years to produce a more ambitious climate target for 2035 and ending major deforestation and native forest logging could see the country cut its emissions by an addition 10 per cent.
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