Opinion

Countdown to extinction: Australia must lead the way on biodiversity funding

By Mike Rann
June 20 2024 - 5:30am

Every Australian who has travelled overseas will have been quizzed about our unique wildlife. From British naturalist George Shaw thinking the platypus specimen he had been sent in 1799 was a hoax, to our long-running national joke about drop bears, our unusual flora and fauna are a source of national pride and part of our identity.

Fewer of us are aware of the critical role that Australia plays in the global fight against biodiversity loss and damage.

As one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, with over 10 per cent of all the species on earth, Australia is now at the forefront of the global fight to protect biodiversity.

The golden-tipped bat beat the dingo and Gilbert’s potoroo to take out Australia’s mammal of the year in a COSMOS poll.

This is important because over the past two centuries Australia has lost more mammal species than any other continent and has one of the highest rates of species decline in the OECD.

Biodiversity loss threatens to change life on Earth as we know it. Over a million species of plants and animals are threatened with extinction, the greatest potential loss since the fall of the dinosaurs, and many with huge implications for our own way of life.

Bees, for example, are estimated to support over 35 per cent of global agricultural land, and recent global falls in their populations threaten food supplies worldwide.

Unlike in so many global crises, however, diplomacy has seen breakthroughs in biodiversity protection, with 196 nations committing to the landmark UN Convention on Biodiversity in December 2022. The Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) aims to address biodiversity loss, restore ecosystems, and protect indigenous rights with the overall goal of halting and reversing biodiversity decline by 2030.

Australia's biodiversity is an extraordinary legacy that we can protect for future generations. Picture Shutterstock
Australia's biodiversity is an extraordinary legacy that we can protect for future generations. Picture Shutterstock

Australia, led by Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek, played a crucial role in the adoption of this framework, and its central target to protect 30 per cent of the world's lands and seas by 2030 and has already begun implementing domestic programs to help achieve the GBF's ambitious goals.

As part of the GBF, Australia and other developed countries agreed to increase international biodiversity funding for developing countries to at least USD$20 billion per year by 2025.

It's inspiring that Australia is currently fifth in the world in terms of our contributions. Australia should be proud that we are contributing significantly more than the likes of the UK, Canada or Switzerland, but now we need a last push to meet our commitments.

A crucial new report by the ODI, commissioned by the Campaign for Nature, shows the scale of the global challenge. It's one that Australia is uniquely positioned to help solve.

In October this year, we will host in Sydney the first-ever Global Nature Positive Summit, bringing together climate and environment ministers from around the world, along with business leaders, scientists, academics, and First Nations people.

A few weeks later Australia has another opportunity to lead at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Samoa, where climate change and its impact on small island states and on developing nations will be high on the agenda.

These global platforms offer an opportunity for Australia to demonstrate our leadership in biodiversity funding globally. An announcement by the Australian government that we will meet our share of nature finance contributions, would set the stage and apply pressure for other nations to follow.

Public finance for biodiversity is critical to unlocking private and philanthropic contributions which also have a role to play in closing the biodiversity funding gap, but cannot do it alone.

A strong statement on financing at the Summit and at CHOGM would have a significant impact on other funders and be a springboard for the "Nature COP" meeting in Colombia being held in late October.

Let's do our part to inspire all donors to crowd in the additional financing that is essential to protect our most vulnerable flora and fauna at home, and abroad.

Australia's biodiversity is an extraordinary legacy that we can protect for future generations. We must not lose this opportunity to lead the way on global funding for nature.

  • Mike Rann is a former premier of South Australia. He is now involved in international climate advocacy.