The Australian environment in 2013
Year in, year out we seem to have the same discussions and make the same action plans, and yet things always seem to be getting slightly worse. People are, to be fair, more aware today than ever before of the dangers, and more and more people around Australia are trying to do their part to save energy by the use of standby power switches (such as the EcoSwitch) and other techniques to turn it off at the wall. But saving energy is only half the battle – we must also take steps to protect our environmental treasures.
It’s shocking, but here we are in 2013 and Australia is still facing significant environmental challenges, and the most depressing part of that is the steadfast resistance to preservation of our natural resources, such as the iconic Great Barrier Reef, is still being actively promoted.
The dying reef
Despite an endless discussion of the threats to the Great Barrier Reef, since 1960 the Reef has lost 50% of its coral. In other words, half of this amazing natural wonder, one of the global symbols of Australia, has died off through a combination of development, oil tanker traffic, and environmental change. The Great Barrier Reef is on the verge of being declared ‘in danger’ by UNESCO this year. Considering how important the Reef is to both the tourism industry as well as simple national pride, it’s shocking at how bad the situation is. Loss of the Reef would not only be a national embarrassment, it would be a tragic loss to the entire world.
The Council of Australian Governments
What’s most amazing about this situation is that the Business Council of Australia is still fighting to reduce the effectiveness of federal oversight of projects that might be environmentally damaging. The BCA cloaks its suggestions in the spirit of State’s rights, asking not that the oversight be removed, but rather that it more appropriately belongs with the State governments rather than the Federal government. Of course, what’s unspoken here is that the State governments have a much bigger stake in the revenues that shipping, oil drilling, and other environmentally-damaging activities generate, and would almost certainly be less vigilant in their supervision of these projects.
That the BCA is still putting profits over the long-term environmental health of Australia is worrying. If a symbol as powerful and obvious as the Great Barrier Reef doesn’t convince people that there is a problem in need of solving, then what hope do we have of saving our future? Ordinary citizens do their part with power saving products and other strategies to become more energy efficient, but their impact is blunted and perhaps reversed if these huge interests don’t also do their part.
Hope for the future
All is not doom and gloom, however. There have been some encouraging signs. The Federal government deferred a decision on the devolution of these powers on hold, and the hope is that this year they will make that a permanent decision, ending fears that the BCA will have their way.
We’ve made some progress, too, on the climate-change front, which goes hand-in-hand with the careful management of environmentally-damaging projects. The hope is that this year will also see the establishment of a $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation, which will have a direct impact on the health of the Reef as well as many other climate-related areas. We’re also hoping to see a carbon tax firmly introduced, to both raise revenues for climate-related endeavours and discourage corporations from engaging in environmentally-damaging acts in the first place.
The potential for 2013
2013 has the potential to be a watershed year for Australia in terms of the environment and climate change. While fixing the environmental problems facing the world as a whole will require massive effort and cooperation from all nations, that’s no reason to shrug and say nothing we do makes a difference. Millions of Australians already do their part to save power, which has a direct impact on the world at large. Now we need government to continue what it’s been doing and do more – and get the corporations to do their part as well, either by compulsion or a sense of moral duty.
Either way, this is the Year of the Australian Environment – for good or for bad.