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17 August 2009
Environment Minister Peter Garrett and Minister for Climate Change and Water, Senator Penny Wong, today released Australia’s Biodiversity and Climate Change: a strategic assessment of the vulnerability of Australia’s biodiversity to climate change.
Opening the International Congress of Ecology in Brisbane today, Mr Garrett said the report provided more compelling evidence of the need to protect Australia’s natural environment for future generations — not only from climate change, but from such other stressors as vegetation clearing and the impact of invasive species.
Minister Wong said the report confirmed that Australia’s iconic natural areas such as the Great Barrier Reef and the Kakadu Wetlands were particularly at risk.
The report also shows Australia has a high proportion of species — about 85 per cent of terrestrial mammals, 91 per cent of flowering plants and 90 per cent of reptiles and frogs found only in Australia that will potentially be at risk from climate change.
“To protect these iconic sites and unique species, we need to commit to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions,” Senator Wong said.
“Australia also needs to adapt to the changes already occurring due to climate change.”
Mr Garrett said our natural environment — our biodiversity and the ecological services it provides — underpin our quality of life, our economy and much of our national identity.
“The Government is already acting to protect our unique environment. We are doing this on every front including by looking at the effectiveness of our national environmental laws, dramatically expanding our national reserve system and arming communities and landowners with the tools they need to safeguard our natural resources,” Mr Garrett said.
“However, this report reinforces what we already know — that our birds and animals and their native habitat is threatened by climate change and the rate of extinction is likely to increase unless we take action.”
Senator Wong said Australia would reduce carbon pollution by up to 25 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020 if there was an international commitment to stabilise greenhouse gas emissions at 450 parts per million or lower.
The assessment, and a video interview with Professor Will Steffen, who led the independent expert advisory group, can be found at www.climatechange.gov.au .