International Wetlands Day: much to celebrate but threats abound

02 February 2020

International Wetlands Day 2020 is cause for reflection on the important environmental legacies that Labor governments have delivered for Australia, but also a reminder of the unprecedented threats our environment now confronts.

It took a Labor Government to deliver protection for Australia’s wetlands. The Whitlam Government signed the Ramsar Convention for Australia on 8 May 1974.

Since then Australia has listed approximately 66 Wetlands of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention, which equates to approximately 8.3 million hectares.

International Wetlands Day 2020 is themed around why biodiversity in wetlands matters to everyone. Wetlands reduce carbon, remove pollutants and provide us with water, food, protection from floods, droughts and storms.

The Ramsar Scientific and Technical Review Panel estimates that while wetlands cover just 9 per cent of the planet’s land surface, they are estimated to store 35 per cent of terrestrial carbon.

An amazing 40 per cent of all species live or breed in wetlands.

International Wetlands Day is also a powerful reminder that it takes Labor governments to deliver real and lasting protection for Australia’s environment.

Federal Labor first protected the Great Barrier Reef by creating and expanding the marine park, it ratified the World Heritage Convention, protected the Franklin River and many of Tasmania’s rainforests and also protected Queensland’s wet tropics.

Environmental institutions now key to preserving our environment were created by Labor, including proper funding and management for national parks and the implementation of Environmental Impact Assessments.

Labor governments also led the world in Ozone layer protection action, commenced Australia’s first serious action on Greenhouse gases, led action to protect the Antarctic, established Landcare, planted more than 700 million trees during the Hawke/Keating Governments and reduced Australia’s emissions when last in government.

Today however, Australia is facing unprecedented challenge to our natural environment.

Bushfires have burned through more than 6 million hectares of land and more than one billion animals are estimated to have perished.

The Morrison Government has cut the federal environment department, failed to implement recovery plans for threatened species, and is clueless about whether existing plans are being implemented.

Australia is now ill-equipped to preserve and protect our beloved national icons and other important species.

This government has no plan to deal with climate change or our national bushfire crisis and no plan to protect our environment.