Another Reason To Hate Campbell Newman: His Land Clearing Laws Put Queensland Back Behind The Carbon Eight Ball

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The LNP government managed to clear the way for bulldozers to level large swathes of forests. See if you can guess what that did to the Sunshine State’s carbon emissions. Thom Mitchell reports.

The Queensland government has revealed that land clearing rates nearly doubled under a weakened regulatory regime in the first two years of the former LNP government, and that in one year alone this resulted in carbon emissions which cancelled out more than half of those purchased in the Federal Government’s most recent effort to curb carbon pollution.

In the year to 2014 alone, an area larger than the Australian Capital Territory was cleared, and according to Queensland Deputy Premier Jackie Trad that produced more than 35 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.

The Federal Government recently purchased 45.5 million tonnes of greenhouse gas abatement at a cost of $557 million, but the World Wildlife Fund said that the increased land clearing in Queensland cancels out $472 million, or 80 per cent of those emissions reductions.

It’s the same amount of carbon pollution that 8 million cars would spew out in one year, the conservation group said.

“This is an extremely bad look for Australia ahead of the upcoming global climate change summit in Paris,” WWF-Australia scientist Dr Martin Taylor said.

“You have a ridiculous situation where land clearing in Queensland undoes Australia’s efforts to bring down our emissions, in effect costing the nation hundreds of millions of dollars.”

The Wilderness Society said the emissions arising from the 296,324 hectares cleared in the year to 2014, up from 78,378 hectares in the year to 2010, are equivalent to more than 6 per cent of Australia’s annual carbon emissions.


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Wilderness Society National Director Lyndon Schneiders argued that “land clearing in Queensland is completely out of control again”. “It’s almost impossible for Australia to reach a real five per cent climate pollution reduction by 2020 when Queensland has effectively increased emissions by more than 6 per cent in just one year by wiping out bushland,” Schneiders said.

In a hat-tip to Labor, the Wilderness Society acknowledged that the Beattie Labor Government’s ban on broadscale land clearing in 2004 was an important factor in Australia reaching its targets under the first round of the nation’s Kyoto protocol commitments to the United Nations.

But both green groups called on the current Palaszcuk Labor government to make good on its promises to reign in land clearing and reverse the Newman LNP government’s reforms, which made it easier for land owners to clear without consent.

Queensland Deputy Premier Jackie Trad accused the Newman government of having “actively encouraged clearing, even before they changed the laws,” and committed to introducing legislation in the first quarter of 2016 to put a brake on the state’s runaway vegetation loss.

“I’m determined that the action we take will achieve a balance between landholders who are doing the right thing and our waterways and eco-systems, and regional and rural communities,” Trad said.

“Landholders have always been able to clear mulga for fodder for livestock, but it’s the other clearing I’m concerned about, particularly other clearing in the Great Barrier Reef catchments.

“If the escalating trend of this other clearing continues, we are increasing carbon emissions and risking land degradation, sedimentation of our waterways, and the Great Barrier Reef.”

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Thom Mitchell

Thom Mitchell is New Matilda's Environment Reporter.

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