It’s always good to start a new year on a hopeful note. While some of the news of war and disasters here and abroad in 2022 was dreadful, there were bright spots that give hope for the future.
Last year was historic in international climate policy with a shift in how the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitters – China, the United States, the European Union and India – deal with climate change. Climate action and economic stability are no longer seen as competing priorities when dealing with spiralling inflation and energy shortages amid Russia’s war on Ukraine.
Although the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) in November was disappointing in terms of implementing commitments, it did reach a breakthrough agreement to provide ‘loss and damage’ funding for vulnerable countries hit hard by climate disasters.
Historic deals were forged to protect life on Earth. The United Nations Biodiversity Conference (COP15) in December saw nations come together to agree on a plan for nature and humanity to live in harmony. A new global agreement called the Kunming-Montreal Global biodiversity framework saw 196 delegates commit to 23 targets to stem the tide of extinction. Among the most crucial is a target to protect around a third of nature by 2030.
The global people-power organisation, Avaaz (voice) says “it’s a major step forward, and could be a turning point for life on this beautiful planet.” Like most global agreements, it’s not perfect but it does signal recognition of the urgency of addressing this issue.
Australia stepped up at COP15 by signing an agreement, together with the United States, to measure the economic value of nature. This has the potential to make environmental damage a bigger consideration for businesses and governments.
The Federal Government also released its Nature Positive Plan on December 8 to halt decline and repair nature, a move described by the Financial Review as the most wide-reaching overhaul of the nation’s habitat, flora and fauna protection laws in more than two decades. The plan includes a number of commitments including an aim for no new extinctions and protecting 30 per cent of Australia’s land and oceans by 2030. Strategies include development of National Environmental Standards, an overhaul of the conservation planning process and an independent new Environmental Protection Authority.
Meanwhile there were several announcements in 2022 designed to protect our oceans, including a 100,000km2 safe haven for dugongs and marine wildlife in the northern Great Barrier Reef. That’s a net-free oasis the size of Tasmania.
The Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands Marine Parks created one of the largest marine sanctuary areas in the world, with around 739,000km2 of sanctuary protection. That’s twice the size of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and a globally significant contribution to the health of our oceans.
The Buccaneer Archipelago Marine Parks were Australia’s first marine parks to be co-designed with traditional owners – a breakthrough for culture and conservation. The WA Government also announced plans for the Marmion Marine Park expansion and new South Coast Marine Park. The Federal Government committed to renew efforts to establish a new marine park in the East Antarctic region.
The impact of all these policies and agreements will, of course, depend on how effectively they are implemented, but it’s a significant move in the right direction by Australia at last.
There are myriad good news stories across the country of small ‘wins’ on the ground and in our communities. In my next articles, I’m going to feature some of these, and the local heroes who are making a difference. If you have a positive story, I’d love you to share it with me by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org