Building a future from our past successes
As we launch into the environmental challenges 2012 promises to bring, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on the many achievements from the past year.
The achievements of 2011 encourage us to set our future goals higher and further, to work for harmony and balance in all our interactions with our environment. With the help of so many Australians, we took important steps towards ensuring a healthy environment for us all.
Our positive campaign for action on climate change has now seen historic legislation passed, and at the November COP17 Climate Change Conference in Durban I saw first-hand the respect and applause for Australia for taking action by putting a price on pollution.
We’re finally close to permanent protection for Tasmania’s spectacular forests – the result of decades of campaigning – and our healthy oceans campaign is successfully raising awareness of the threats to our marine life.
Climate change and clean energy
ACF first raised the issue of greenhouse pollution in 1974 and for more than a decade our campaigners have worked with scientists, business people, unions, social groups, politicians and the public to raise awareness about climate change.
The Climate Reality Project team and presenters have now given Al Gore's famous presentation to around one in 62 Australians. We helped form the Southern Cross Climate Coalition and last year’s people-powered Say Yes Australia coalition to press home the need for effective legislation.
Last November, Labor, Green and independent politicians showed foresight, courage and determination by saying yes to ground-breaking clean energy legislation.
Australia can now cut up to a billion tonnes of pollution that would otherwise go into our skies, and we’ll have an incentive to find new, cleaner ways to do business.
We’ll continue working to make this legislation successful – ensuring the $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation bolsters support for renewable energy technology; and that the promise of a $1 billion Biodiversity fund to help protect our valuable ecosystems, and the life-supporting services they provide, is realised.
Our rivers and oceans – more work to do
Restoring the Murray-Darling
The draft Murray-Darling Basin Plan falls short. In November, the Murray-Darling Basin Authority released its draft Murray-Darling Basin Plan. However as it stands, the plan doesn’t return enough additional water to flush out the salt and return the rivers to health.
South Australian communities will be hardest hit by an ineffective plan, however the Murray-Darling is our country’s lifeblood and a healthy river is vital for our national economy.
In response, we are continuing to work in coalition with farmers, communities and supporters to show that there’s no future, or jobs, on a dead river. We’re telling our leaders that Australians deserve a successful plan that’s based on credible science, and that works in all our interests not just the self-interest of big irrigators. We’re asking the federal minister to send the plan back.
Protecting our big blue backyard
Important ocean treasures were left out of the government’s proposed South-West marine plan when it was released last May. In response we worked with an alliance of environment groups to demonstrate to the Minister for the Environment Tony Burke the extent of public support for a network of marine sanctuaries. Your support contributed to a massive 35,000 public submissions. We’re also urging the government to extend the proposed Coral Sea marine national park to include more species-rich coral reefs – truly the jewels in our marine crown.
Through our ongoing campaign work and initiatives such as the award-winning Sustainable Australian Seafood Assessment Program, we’re showing that Australia can again take a lead in protecting our oceans.
Nuclear free – staring down the barrel
A long journey to Paris in June saw UNESCO decide to include the Koongarra region in the Kakadu National Park World Heritage Area. The next step is for Koongarra to be formally included into Kakadu.
ACF congratulates Senior Traditional Owner Jeffrey Lee, who has consistently rejected offers to mine uranium deposits in the area, for his vision and effort in caring for the land and acting to protect it.
Since June 2010, ACF and other concerned groups have stood beside Traditional Owners to oppose the proposed radioactive waste dump at Muckaty Station. With this flawed legislation that suspends the rights and protections of the community still not passed by the Senate, we’re asking the federal government to reject it, and develop a responsible approach to the long-term management of radioactive waste.
The ALP National Conference’s recent vote to sell Australian uranium to India is a worrying development for Australia, and undermines the integrity of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. We’ll be stepping up our campaign to highlight the environmental and cultural impacts of uranium mining.
Tasmanian forests – pursuing the promise of protection
Thanks to our loyal supporters and after 30 years of conflict, our campaign to save Tasmania’s old-growth forests has made some progress, but there's more to do. In August, we saw an Intergovernmental Agreement signed by the Tasmanian and federal governments that will protect at least 430,000 hectares of high conservation value forests.
Equally as important as protection, the agreement brings a fair transition for workers and communities, and a phase-out of native forests into a sustainable forest industry based on well managed plantations.
We continue to work towards passing legislation to lock in commitments and deliver on the promise of this historic agreement. Unfortunately it was recently revealed that Forestry Tasmania has continued to schedule logging in the areas slated for protection. We are now working to ensure logging is suspended in forest designated for conservation.
Northern Australia – immense, spectacular, diverse
The Kimberley – a natural and cultural treasure
In September, our campaign for National Heritage listing for the West Kimberley was successful. It's a historic listing – the largest land-based listing in Australia (about the size of Victoria), and for the first time with the full consent of Traditional Owners.
There is still much to be done. We remain opposed to the gas hub at James Price Point which threatens part of the longest stretch of dinosaur footprints in the world.
Cape York – building trust and partnerships
The federal government’s announcement of $23 million to support land tenure reform for the Cape recognises the importance of its rich, living Indigenous cultures and great diversity of landscapes and wildlife.
Decades of hard work and building trust in the region are paying off with continued commitment to these critical and historic reforms.
Most recently we saw the return of Iron Range lands to Traditional Owners and its declaration as an Aboriginal National Park. This area is famous for its rare wildlife and is home to half of all Australia's butterfly species!
Sustainable Australia – greening our cities
With the vast majority of our population now in cities, our goals for living sustainably are increasingly important. We recently cooperated with the Council of Capital City Lord Mayors and the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council to progress the first ever national urban policy by the Federal Government “Our Cities, Our Future”.
We’re campaigning to improve the effectiveness of the federal government’s first population strategy, particularly on the development and better use of sustainability indicators.
This past year we released a report calling for investment in a clean, green transport future. The federal government has committed to fund new urban public transport and rail projects, and to introduce new mandatory CO2 emissions standards for new cars and other light vehicles by 2015.
After years of campaigning, we celebrated the reform in the May 2011 federal budget of the Fringe Benefits Tax concession for company cars which had encouraged the use of fossil fuels.
New Economics – a better measure of our wellbeing
We are also asking, can we do better than just measuring economic growth? What about all the valuable contributions of our social and ecological systems?
We’re seeking a more balanced approach to measuring Australia’s progress, and to change government decision-making to incorporate a full assessment of Australia’s wellbeing for the health of our society and the environment
We’ve achieved so much in the last year thanks to the donations of people like you. There’s still much to do and we’re ready to face the challenges ahead – knowing that we have your support and the commitment of so many other caring Australians. I’m sure that like me you hope the progress we have made towards a clean sustainable future will be just the start.
Australians love this ancient land, its seas and waters and its unique life forms and landscapes – your continuing support will help us to protect, restore and sustain this special place.
We’ll keep working to conserve our precious environment and deliver a sustainable future for all Australians.