Australia’s renewable energy goals can’t come at the cost of biodiversity – we need a strategic approach
(The Guardian, 12 Jan 2024) The Port of Hastings windfarm block highlights a growing conundrum – how to expand renewable infrastructure without damaging fragile ecosystems.
The recent decision by the environment minister, Tanya Plibersek, to block the development of a “renewable energy terminal” at Port of Hastings in the Western Port wetland east of Melbourne brings into stark focus the increasing tension between two commitments of all Australia’s governments – solving the biodiversity crisis and the climate crisis. We need solutions to this conundrum quickly, otherwise there will be lost opportunities, expensive mistakes and even more extinctions.
Humanity faces two existential crises. The climate crisis we know well; the second, less appreciated threat to humanity is biodiversity loss. We are only just beginning to appreciate its effects on our economy, agriculture, health and culture.
In general, actions that are good for biodiversity, such as habitat restoration and First Nations-led fire management, also deliver benefits to the climate. Indeed, the science tells us that “nature-based” solutions can deliver at least one third of promised global cuts in emissions. Just stopping land clearing and habitat degradation is the single most important act for both slowing biodiversity loss while delivering huge gains in CO2 sequestration.