The federal government will reserve 30 per cent of land for conservation to improve biodiversity and set a goal of no new extinctions in an overhaul of its threatened species action plan.
The new plan, to be outlined by Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek on Tuesday, includes a commitment to protect an additional 50 million hectares of land by the end of the decade.
Fifteen new animal and plant species have also been added to the endangered list primarily due to human activity and in part as a result of the Black Summer bushfires.
Ms Plibersek described Australia as “the mammal-extinction capital of the world” and said previous strategies to save plants, animals and places had failed and must be reconsidered.
“It is a very ambitious thing to have a goal of zero extinctions when we have had catastrophic natural events like the Black Summer bushfires, proceeded by drought and followed by flood,” Ms Plibersek told the ABC.
“It is important to set this goal because it means we focus our efforts in protecting the animals, plants and landscapes that are particularly vulnerable.”
More than 50 nations have already pledged to reserve 30 per cent of their land and water for protection by 2030, in a bid to protect biodiversity.
“This is very ambitious,” Ms Plibersek said.
“It means putting a stronger value on the land that we still have that is in good condition”.
Ms Plibersek said the federal government had not decided where the land would be located, adding consultation would take place.
“We have identified 20 priority places around the nation which are places we know are very rich with biodiversity and where we can make a really big impact on protecting biodiversity,” Ms Plibersek said.
They include Bruny Island, French Island, Kangaroo Island, Christmas Island, Norfolk Island and Raine Island.
“Those islands can be like Noah’s Ark if we deal with the feral species and get rid of the foxes and the cats and deal with the invasive weeds, they can be absolute treasure troves of biodiversity,” Ms Plibersek said.
Fourteen sensitive regions on the mainland will be prioritised including the Blue Mountains, the Australian Alps, Kakadu, the Macdonnell Ranges, and the kelp forests of Tasmania.
A 2019 UN report on biodiversity showed human activities were putting nature in more trouble now than at any other time in human history, with extinction looming for more than 1 million species of plants and animals.
Nature conservancy welcomes plan
The new threatened-species action plan was welcomed by the managing director of Nature Conservancy Australia, Alison Rowe, who said it had a bigger focus and more commitments.
Ms Rowe said about 22 per cent of land in Australia was protected and reserving more would help address climate change.
“Protecting our habitat and our grasslands and forests can actually go towards reducing a third of emissions we also need to do by 2030,” she said.
“So there is a dual purpose of protecting habitat and addressing climate change.”
Ms Rowe agreed the plan was ambitious, with 45 million hectares of land set to be protected by 2027.
“It does need to consider not just the quantity of land, but the different species that are in different locations around Australia and make sure we have a really good mix of ecosystems,” Ms Rowe said.
“The big increase is also the focus on the inclusion of First Nations people and learning about their science and that’s fantastic and something I am proud of.”