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Claimed emissions reduction from land use are very doubtful and must be verified

Finally, the majority of people and businesses have decided they want action on climate change. Coalition ministers keep assuring us that we will meet our emissions reduction targets easily but they offer no proof for this claim.

They talk about the renewable energy projects planned before the renewable energy target and subsidies are abolished, and they may well bring about the desired reductions in the electricity sector, but we cannot ignore rising emissions from other sectors.

The National Greenhouse Gas Inventory claims significant emissions reductions from the land use, land use change, and forestry (LULUCF) sector (4% net reduction of total emissions in 2016-17), but there is little genuine data to back this up, and they seem to want to keep it that way.

The latest report (released on football Grand Final eve and on the same day as the interim report into the banking RC) states that the LULUCF estimates “have a greater level of uncertainty than the other sectors in the national inventory” because “Processed satellite images are not yet available to support the calculation of emissions estimates for 2017 and 2018.”

After several inquiries, no-one seems to know anything about the State of the Forests report that is published every five years and due this year. No-one can verify they are even working on it let alone give me a publishing date.

And it’s not just the Feds hiding information.

The Guardian had to fight an eight-month legal battle to get a look at the NSW government’s 2014-16 Native Vegetation report card. The most recent report from 2016-17 has still not been released, with the department claiming it is still not complete.

It’s no wonder they want to hide the figures.

In 2013-14, 900 hectares was cleared in total in NSW. In 2014-15 this jumped to 2,730 hectares and by 2015-16 it had increased to 7,390 hectares.

At the same time measures to conserve native vegetation slumped to the lowest level in a decade and restoration of native vegetation areas fell to less than half the decade average. Weed removal programs also went into reverse, with just a tiny fraction of the areas being managed for weeds – 29,970 hectares compared to the decade average of 182,200 hectares.

And this was before the NSW government changed the law in 2017 to make land-clearing even easier.

“Mr Baird’s bill appears more concerned with fast-tracking land clearing than conserving nature, and has clearly been crafted to please big agribusiness and the developer lobby,” said NSW Nature Conservation chief executive Kate Smolski after stakeholder meetings in 2016.

Then there is Queensland.

With 395,000 hectares of regrowth and old growth vegetation having been cleared in 2015-16 — a rise of 33 per cent over the previous year — Queensland accounts for more than half of Australia’s total losses of native forest. According to The Conversation, this rate of increased clearing is unmatched anywhere else on the globe.

More than 1 million hectares of native bush and forest has been cleared in Queensland over the last four years.

The ERF has claimed 124 Mt CO2-e of contracted emissions reductions through businesses, mainly farmers, “Protecting native forests by reducing land clearing, Planting trees to grow carbon stocks, and Regenerating native forest on previously cleared land.”

One wonders how any seeds and saplings planted have fared through the drought. One also wonders how you can claim emissions reductions for projects that are supposed to take decades like the Moombidary Forest Regeneration Project.

Projections suggest that in the two decades to 2030, 3m hectares of untouched forest will have been bulldozed in eastern Australia.

This has drastic consequences, not only on emissions, but also on biodiversity and the health of the Great Barrier Reef.

About three-quarters of Australia’s 1,640 plants and animals listed by the government as threatened have habitat loss listed as one of their main threats.

Every day, including today, we hear stories about sediment run-off from land-clearing on farms endangering water quality on the reef.

Today we also hear that the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has forecast that, by March next year. the entire reef has a 60 per cent chance of being subject to “bleaching alert level one”, where bleaching is likely. And worse still, the southern half of the reef has a 60 per cent chance of seeing the highest “bleaching alert level 2”, where coral death is likely.

Governments must be honest with us about these threats. They must provide us with the most up-to-date information. They must allow us to take part in the decision-making about priorities.

The consequences of their obfuscation and inaction and downright lies are becoming graver by the minute.

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  1. MikeW

    Do these clowns realise that forests trees and plants are the earths lungs, once they are destroyed so is planet earth.

  2. Matters Not

    Should politicians be held accountable re their stated intentions (promises) or perhaps on the outcomes achieved? Certainly politicians shouldn’t (can’t) be held accountable for developments outside their control such as natural disasters and the like but even then perhaps we need to look more closely at ‘natural’ disasters and decide how preventable they were. In the US there’s an interesting case under way

    Less than three months ago, the Supreme Court allowed a landmark climate change lawsuit against the federal government to proceed, despite misgivings about the “striking” breadth of the case filed by nearly two-dozen teenage plaintiffs … The plaintiffs in Juliana v. the United States are arguing that the US government has known for decades that carbon dioxide emissions are endangering the planet. By allowing the production of fossil fuels to continue, the lawsuit alleges, the plaintiffs’ constitutional right to life, liberty, and property is being violated, in addition to their public trust rights.


    Another similar climate change case, which was brought against the state of Washington, was dismissed in August before a trial could begin. In explaining his decision, a Seattle trial judge said the lawsuit from 13 teenage plaintiffs should not go forward because the issues brought about in the case were of a political, not legal, nature.

    Political or legal? Who cares? Perhaps it matters not. A case of Nero fiddling while Rome burns?

    This Week the Supreme Court Will Decide If 21 Teens Can Sue the Government Over Climate Change

  3. Shaun Newman

    Unless of course one plants a tree or trees on that land, then the land can be very useful. Unfortunately, deforestation by developers and farmers in the past two decades in Australia has been continuing at a rapid rate as our population, due to immigration has ballooned, and we are now beginning to pay the price in Climactic change, with increases in bush fires, droughts, cyclones etc.

    Unless this nation gets immigration and Climate Change under control we are heading down the slippery slope, we are the driest inhabited continent on Earth, but are acting as though we are not. Immediate suggestions from me would be the immediate instigation of Bradfield Scheme – Wikipedia, limit immigration to required labour shortages, and pressure major political parties to adopt both the forementioned.

  4. Keith

    Thank you Kaye.

    It would be great if governments were honest. Morrison is not taking any notice of climate science, I wonder whether it is his fundamental religious views and conservative ideology that blocks his views towards the objective science of climate change. He chose two deniers in Taylor and Price as key Ministers in the area.


    As you say Australia has a poor record in relation to deforestation. Huge quantities of rainforest ave been lost in Indonesia and Amazon Basin as well. Landbased flora creates about 50% of our oxygen, the other half is created in our oceans by phytoplankton, kelp, and algal plankton. We know kelp forests are being lost, and there are reports about phytoplankton being lost in a number of marine areas.


  5. king1394

    Having been a Green Army supervisor on a project a couple of years ago, I have first hand knowledge of how limited a tree planting scheme can be. During the hottest part of the year my group of inexperienced and alienated young people did manage to plant their 2000 trees, shrubs and grasses, while I fought my superiors (a jobsearch agency with no knowledge of carrying out environmental work) because there was no provision of time or equipment for watering the plants. My young people did their best to get the plants established as we bucketed water from the river. The attitude of the ‘management’ was that the plants had been planted: tick. Revisiting the site recently, I was proud to see how much had survived, while also being only too aware of the areas where there was no plant survival.

    The point is that these projects are put together as numbers, which are then counted forever, but there is no ongoing maintenance or monitoring of the site. On the other hand, Landcare groups have tremendous success because they go back to the site many times, and often do a substantial amount of follow-up planting.

  6. Kaye Lee


    I am heartened to hear that some of your hard work survived. It is so frustrating that we continually take steps backwards. For so many government initiatives, there is no ongoing appraisal. As you say, the box is ticked….move on to next announcable.

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