Australia creates environmental protection agency, toughens conservation laws

Sydney, Australia, Dec 8 (EFE).- Australia will set up an environmental protection agency and toughen its environmental laws to protect its ecosystems, while improving the management of its natural resources, the country’s environment minister announced Thursday.

“Our reforms are seeking to turn the tide in this country – from nature destruction to nature repair,” Tanya Plibersek said while announcing a plan to revamp national environmental laws.

The plan includes the implementation of stronger laws to repair and protect nature, including new binding national standards.

An Independent Environmental Protection Agency to be set up will have the power to decide on the management of important natural resources such as water and gas, which are key to the Australian economy.

The agency “will be responsible for compliance and enforcement under the new Act, holding proponents to account for their information, decisions and undertakings,” according to a document detailing the plan.

Likewise, the government, which expects to present the bill on the matter in mid-2023, plans to speed up decisions on the development of business projects, as well as joint work with indigenous communities.

The plan also contemplates the creation of regional three-level (traffic light) maps to identify areas for protection, restoration and sustainable development, including the immense forested areas that are habitats for unique animals such as koalas.

“Nature is being destroyed. Businesses are waiting too long for decisions. That’s bad for everyone. Things have to change,” said Plibersek, whose Labor Party won the May election with a commitment to fight climate change and ensure environmental protection.

Since then, the government of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has legislated on its enhanced commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 43 percent by 2030 (previously 28 percent) and to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

Likewise, the current government has committed to protect 30 percent of its land and sea territory by 2030 and end the extinction of plant and animal species, which have been affected by human development and natural disasters aggravated by the climate crisis.

Thursday’s announcement comes in response to an independent report to review the 1999 Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act commissioned three years ago by the former Liberal-National coalition government.

The report was delivered in October 2020 to then-prime minister Scott Morrison, a strong supporter of the coal industry, one of the Oceanian country’s top export stars and key to power generation for much of Australia. EFE


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