This week in the environment

This week was spent indoors for many Australians while outside the biggest downpour in a decade occurred. There was flooding and hail the size of golf balls along the east coast but after last year’s bushfires and the relentless drought, the most-heard phrase was, “Well, thankfully it’s not a repeat of last year.”

It was also a week that saw restrictions being lift in Melbourne (who recorded their first day of zero infections since July) and Europe being sent back into lockdown again. A week of election anticipation with the whole world googling “will Trump win?” and more locally “will Queensland open its borders in time for Christmas?”

Hidden among this mountain of news stories were some important reports about the environment.

We’re not going to predict the outcome of the US elections but it’s clear that, under Biden, the US will take a different approach to foreign policy – and this includes action on issues like climate change. In his election bid Biden outlined a US$2 trillion clean energy and infrastructure plan, a commitment to re-join the Paris climate agreement and a goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.

This in stark contrast to PM Scott Morrison saying on Wednesday that “he will not be dictated to by other governments’ climate change goals.” This was in response to the news that South Korean President Moon Jae-in announced his country would pursue a net-zero target by 2050. Korea is Australia’s four top trading partners who have now all adopted net-zero emissions targets.

“I am not concerned about our future exports,” Mr Morrison said. “Australia will set our policies here. Our policies won’t be set in the United Kingdom, they won’t be set in Brussels, they won’t be set in any part of the world other than here.”

Federal environment minister Sussan Ley added some more weight to the perception that this government really doesn’t care about the climate or its inhabitants. She announced the next day the expansion of a controversial rock quarry that will clear 52 hectares of koala habitat north of Newcastle.

Remember, in June a NSW parliamentary inquiry found that 5,000 koalas had died in the summer bushfires and warned that koalas could be extinct in NSW within 30 years unless habitat was urgently protected from development.

Ley defied pressure from a grassroots campaign supported by celebrities such as Olivia Newton-John, Celeste Barber, Jimmy Barnes and Magda Szubanski and instead claimed, “This is actually a good conservation outcome for koalas.”

All this comes among new polling that shows that 79% of Aussies care about climate change. So why doesn’t the government listen?

It was just announced that the Djab Wurrung people have won an injunction to halt roadwork that already saw the destruction of the Djab Wirrung Direction Tree. Five more sacred trees are found to be in the way of the Victorian government’s plans to upgrade the Western Highway. There are three weeks left to take action and appeal to the Daniels government.

Here are five ways you can help.