Australia should seize the opportunity to become a global conservation leader

One million plant and animal species are threatened with extinction, and the current laws and policies in place are not enough to conserve the natural world and the ecosystem services it provides. This is the warning from the latest Global Assessment of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). The report also warns that the accelerating rate of species extinctions has serious implications for both the natural world and society as a whole.

Professor Don Driscoll, President of the Ecological Society of Australia, says that the report accurately reflects the harsh reality, and highlights the imperative for immediate conservation action. ‘This report sits true with what ecologists have been documenting over the past decades, that the biodiversity crisis is escalating despite all nations agreeing to the guidelines set down by the Convention on Biological Diversity. We should use this report to galvanise and inform conservation efforts on all fronts: individually, within our communities, and in political contexts.’

He says the report highlights that change is possible if we implement a range of urgent actions to mitigate the extinction crisis. ‘One of the biggest actions is to redefine our measures of success beyond the narrow focus on economic growth, and to create policies focused on the ecological sustainability of society. The report also advises that both public and private arenas must be engaged, all scales of government need to work together to achieve conservation goals, and Indigenous knowledge and voices should be promoted.’

These directions align with the recommendations of Australian ecologists on the next steps forward for Australia in conserving our unique ecosystems. ‘We must improve our policies for conservation and environmental protection,’ says Professor Driscoll. ‘This includes strengthening or replacing the 1999 Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act, increasing threatened species recovery investment to at least two per cent of the GDP, as well as increasing representation of Indigenous Australian communities in ecosystem policy and management decisions.’

‘The ESA is ready to address the challenges before us, and to work alongside our nation’s institutions and leaders to make the changes necessary to preserve our unique flora and fauna. Australia is currently a world leader in extinction rates, but we are also world leaders in ecology and conservation research. With the election so close, we need to call on our representatives to tackle this issue and to provide effective, evidence-based leadership.’

The IPBES Global Assessment Report is the most comprehensive assessment of global biodiversity, involving the work of 500 scientists from 50 countries, and assesses trends over the past five decades. It draws on more than 15,000 published works and was negotiated with the support of 134 governments.