THE rate of excessive tree clearing has reached alarming levels in Queensland, with the state now stripping enough trees to cover 1000 football fields every day, according to the annual deforestation report released today.
The 2015-16 Statewide Landcover and Trees Study (SLATS) shows the rate of tree clearing has skyrocketed in Queensland, with 395,000 hectares of land cleared in 2015-16.
Perhaps the report’s most concerning finding is the fact 166 million tonnes of carbon dioxide has been released into the atmosphere from tree-clearing in Queensland since 2011-12.
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Furthermore, the alarming report showed Queensland is now contributing 90% of Australia’s emissions from land use and the rate of tree-clearing in the Great Barrier Reef catchments has soared by almost 50% since 2012-2013.
Deputy Premier Jackie Trad said the rate of land clearing was driving native wildlife to extinction, risking the tens of thousands of jobs reliant on the Great Barrier Reef, and driving up Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.
“This is worse than any of us imagined,” she said.
“The Government promised at the 2015 State election to reinstate the vegetation management legislation that existed prior to the Newman-Nicholls LNP Government [but] the LNP blocked our legislation and excessive tree clearing has increased dramatically.
“It shows the rate of clearing has quadrupled … excessive land clearing in Queensland is now at a rate of 1000 football fields every day.”
According to Scientific Review of Impacts of Land Clearing in Queensland released earlier this year, land clearing has been directly responsible for two plant species becoming extinct in the wild.
It has also been identified as a threatening process for many of the 739 threatened flora species and 210 threatened fauna species in the state.
Environment Minister Steven Miles said more than 138,000 hectares – or a third of the total clearing – was remnant forest and almost 50% was in Great Barrier Reef catchments.
“That remnant forest is habitat for our native wildlife that hasn’t been cleared before,” Minister Miles said.
“A key commitment of the Reef 2050 Plan is to reduce land clearing. Both the State and Federal Governments committed to this plan and it’s what has stopped UNESCO putting the reef on the ‘in danger’ list.
“The Reef’s World Heritage Status is vital for industry that relies on it and the 64,000 jobs it supports.
“This rate of land clearing is at odds with Australia’s commitment to the Paris Accord to Climate Change, committed to by Tony Abbott and maintained by his successor Malcolm Turnbull.
“Some 45 million tonnes of emissions is generated in Queensland alone by land clearing. That more than wipes out the Federal Government’s $1.5 billion Emissions Reduction Fund,” he said.
Ms Trad said thanks to Tim Nicholls and the LNP, Queensland was now responsible for 90 per cent of Australia’s emissions from land use, contributing to climate change and the coral bleaching threatening the Great Barrier Reef.
“Labor fought with everything we had to reintroduce sensible laws, but Tim Nicholls and the LNP blocked us,” she said.
“Malcolm Turnbull better tell his Queensland colleagues to pull their heads in because without the return of sensible tree clearing laws he won’t meet the emissions targets he signed up to in Paris.
“Only a Labor-majority Government can deliver real, balanced environmental protections.
“A re-elected Palaszczuk Government will introduce legislation to protect remnant and high conservation value non-remnant vegetation.
“We are committed to driving down clearing rates to protect Queensland’s iconic wildlife, climate and Great Barrier Reef.”
The 2015-16 SLATS report found:
- The total statewide woody vegetation clearing rate increased from 153,638 hectares per year in 2011-12 to 395,000 hectares in 2015-16. This is the highest woody vegetation clearing rate since 2003-04 (490,000 hectares per year)
- The clearing of highest conservation value vegetation (remnant) was 138,000 hectares per year— or 35% of total clearing. This compares to 34,590 hectares per year in 2011-12.
- 93 per cent of the total land cleared in 2015-16 was used for pasture, not cropping.
- Since 2011-12, 166 million tonnes of carbon dioxide has been released into the atmosphere from tree-clearing in Queensland.
- Queensland is now contributing 90% of Australia’s emissions from land use.