The Australian government is currently facing pressure to fix conservation laws. With ravaging forest fires, endangered animals, and a target of net-zero, environmentalists ask if 2021 will bring change.

Great Barrier Reef
(Photo : Dmitry Brant / Wikimedia Commons)
Snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef, Australia.

The havoc of 2020 was not limited to the global pandemic brought by COVID-19. The year started for Australia with record-breaking bushfires where roughly 3 billion animals were severely affected or killed. Subsequent government reports show the extent of the country's unique environment was rapidly declining long before the dreaded forest fires hit.

Urgency and Pressure to Act on the Climate Crisis

More than 120 countries, including Europe, Asia, and American powers, have pledged mid-century net zero-emission or carbon neutrality goals. But the Australian government, despite pressure from investors, state governments, and business leaders to act on the climate crisis, remains to resist.

A report in July found that Australia's environment is in an unstable state of decline where both the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act are ineffective and requires substantial change.

On the other hand, environmentalists were not at all surprised at the current government's dismal efforts to address the climate crisis. The country has the highest rate of mammalian extinction widely due to the failure to protect wildlife.

Threatened Great Barrier Reef

One of Australia's most recognizable natural landmarks, the Great Barrier Reef, has suffered through a third major coral bleaching event since 2016. Most damages were seen near the southern end of Mackay-- a mostly untouched area in 2016-2017. Hence, reefs along the length of 2,300 kilometers have been severely affected in the past 5 years.

Healthy corals and vibrant areas are still in the area with damaged corals foreseen to recover, But a significant number of shallow-water corals have died.

Recently, as reported by the Guardian, growing concerns that the summer may be the fourth consecutive year of severe bleaching, Professor Terry Hughes of Cook University says cooler and cloudier weather throughout Christmass has lessened the risks.

However, an assessment made by the US National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration suggests greater risks of bleaching in the north of Cairns, and a warmer than projected February could change projections.

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Saving Koalas

Sussan Ley, federal environment minister, has set October as the deadline for the scientific committee to assess the threatened species of the east coast koala populations that have been severely affected by the climate crisis, warranting national endangered listing.

Despite calls for stricter policies and immediate action in conserving koala populations, the NSW has reverted to a 1995 policy with a promise to develop policies over the year.

Conservationists fear that the slow and inadequate steps and initiatives of the current federal government may mean certain doom for Australia's unique environment. Although major retailers refusing to sell paper logged by companies without forest stewardship council certification, more has to be done.

In order to stall the drastic changes in Australia's environment, strict policies and immediate actions have to be ensured at a country-wide pace.

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