Key NSW environmental report card paints concerning picture
On the eve of the holiday period the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water quietly published its environmental report card for the last 3 years, the 2009 State of the Environment Report.
“I am very surprised that this extremely important document which outlines our progress on restoring and enhancing our natural environment over the last 3 years was unaccompanied by any departmental or ministerial release,” says Greens MP Ian Cohen.
“The Department and the Minister appear to be suggesting that we are ‘holding the line’ on the health of our natural environment’ in the face of population growth. I would suggest that the key report indicators show some concerning trends in our environment and that we are simply not facing up to the challenges of climate change.”
“The report shows the NSW Government is not reducing greenhouse gas emissions, is not on target with recycling rates commitments, has not complied with national air emission standards, is not effectively addressing biodiversity loss and is struggling with declining wetland health.”
Some of the key points drawn from the SOE Report 2009 included;
· Greenhouse Gases: In 1990, NSW emitted 160 Mt CO2-e (carbon dioxide equivalent/Greenhouse Gas). In 2007, NSW emitted 163 Mt CO2-e. The Report makes the argument that population growth and economic development are behind the stagnation in reducing emission levels, yet fails to acknowledge technological advances that should aid emission reduction.
To achieve the NSW State Government target of achieving 2000 level GHG emissions levels by 2025 (152 Mt CO2-e) NSW needs to reduce emissions by 16.3% from current levels (or 666,666 tonnes of CO2-e per year until 2025), which considering the current trends, appears unlikely.
Greenhouse gas emissions from stationary energy has increased by 33% between 1990 and 2007 (60 Mt to 79Mt) even though annual population growth has not exceeded 1.2% over the last 20 years.
· Climate Change: The annual average temperature rise in NSW was around 0.1°C per decade during 1950–80. From 1990 onwards it has been about 0.5°C per decade, a five-fold increase. Increases in temperature will have significant impacts on human health, particularly in relation to our aged citizens.
· Recycling and Waste Management: The 2006/07 municipal recycling rate for New South Wales was 38%, representing a 5% increase in municipal recycling over a 2 year period. At this rate NSW is not on track to achieve 2014 target of 66% recycling. For the Sydney region, 4.52 million tonnes of potentially recyclable waste went to landfill. Half of this waste going to landfill comes from the industrial and commercial stream, in particular food waste and products.
· Air Pollution: Ozone and Particles (PM10) concentrations appear to be on an upward trend with increasing exceedence of the National Environment Protection Measure for Ambient Air Quality Standards. Particles (PM2.5 and PM10) in non-urban areas have increased significantly (16% and 19% respectively). Nitrogen oxide emissions from industry in Sydney are up 49%.
· National Parks and Conservation: The report boasts that since 2006 the national reserve system has increased by 3.5% or grown by 236,346 ha. However this pales in comparison to the contribution of former Premier Carr’s contribution (58% increase) and the contribution of the Greiner Government that increased the national reserve system by 7.2%. Of note is that the Riverina Bioregion (where the most significant River Reg Gums Forests are) only has 1.8% of the total region represented in reserves.
· Cultural Heritage: While the area of lands with aboriginal cultural heritage items has increased to 2.3 million hectares, approaches to licensing destruction and damage of aboriginal places and areas is leaving cultural heritage without adequate protection.
· Soil Conservation and Land Degradation: While soil erosion levels are holding, organic carbon and soil structure are deteriorating at a time when there is increasing need for sustainable land management to underwrite food security.
· Water: Inland river health is significantly deteriorating with overall ecosystem health in NSW Murray–Darling Basin rivers been described as very poor and coastal rivers only having a fair rating. In terms of NSW wetlands, there is a general decline in the condition resulting from prolonged drought, catchment land-use changes, clearing and modified drainage patterns.
· Threatened Species: Of the 25% of the native terrestrial species monitored in NSW for sustainability, 64% of all fauna species that are assessable and 65% of birds have a moderate or greater risk of extinction.