Category Archives: Enviro Mails

Update 2: Australian sandalwood conservation

Michael Cornish
by email

 

Dear Michael

Thank you for your letter of 15 October, address to me as Chair of the Western Australian Threatened Species Scientific Committee at the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions. The Department forwarded your letter to me.

I did read the paper by Richard McLellan et al. when it was published. I can understand your concern.

The Western Australian TSSC reviews nominations that have been submitted to them for the listing of flora as threatened flora under the WA Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016, in accordance with the provisions of the Act and Ministerial Guidelines. Members of the community may submit nominations at any time, following the Ministerial Guidelines, and using the nomination form available on the Department of Biodiversity, Conservations and Attractions (DBCA) web page, dpaw.wa.gov.au/plants-and-animals/threatened-species-and-communities/118-nominations.

As well as the list of threatened species, the WA priority flora list is a non-statutory list maintained by DBCA. Recommendations for addition to the priority flora list may be submitted to DBCA at any time, to [email protected]. Additions to the priority flora list do not require a nomination form. Priority list recommendations are not required to be submitted to or to be reviewed by the TSSC, although TSSC may make recommendations to DBCA on priority listings and DBCA may request TSSC advice on priority listings. Having a plant on the priority flora list does ensure that it is considered when environmental impact and other decisions are made, although that level of protection is not as high as threatened listing.

I am advised that a nomination for the listing of Australian Sandalwood (Santalum spicatum) as a threatened flora species has not been received, nor has a recommendation been received for addition to the priority flora list.

As the species occurs in WA and South Australia, the assessment of a nomination must also follow the requirements for cross-jurisdictional assessments under the Intergovernmental memorandum of understanding – Agreement on a common assessment method for listing of threatened species and threatened ecological communities, awe.gov.au/environment/biodiversity/threatened/cam. While WA TSSC may review a nomination for a species that occurs both in WA and in anther jurisdiction, and can recommend listing to the state Minister, it is sometimes simpler to nominate such a species to the Commonwealth TSSC; however, you should note that they have priorities set by their Minister, and a nomination may not be considered for some time if it does not fit the current priorities.

If a nomination of species that occurs both in WA and outside WA is received by DBCA, it will be considered by the WA TSSC and after the state Minister makes a decision whether or not to list, it is then referred to the Commonwealth. Except for emergency nominations, WATSSC typically meets once a year and its recommendations go to the state Minister within a reasonably short time.

I suggest that your best course of action would be to, in the immediate future, recommend sandalwood to the WA Flora Priority List and then fill in a threatened species nomination form so that the TSSC may consider recommending listing.

Yours sincerely

Dr Andrew A Burbidge AO
Chair WA TSSC

9 November 2021

Vehicle emissions standards

The Hon Angus Taylor MP
Minister for Industry, Energy and Emissions Reduction
PO Box 6022
House of Representatives
CANBERRA, ACT 2600

 

Dear Minister,

Re: Vehicle Emission Standards

I write to you as a former Senior Adviser to the Federal Member for Mayo, Ms Rebekha Sharkie MP with a keen interest in public health and environmental issues.

Improving light and heavy vehicle emissions standards offer tremendous benefits:

  • to the health of Australians by mitigating the noxious air pollution that leads to more than 1,700 premature deaths a year[1] via respiratory disease;
  • to the environment by reducing CO2-equivalent greenhouse gas emissions; and
  • by mitigating the negative health impacts that are consequential to climate change.

I recognise there are potential political obstacles to the introduction of more stringent heavy vehicle emissions standards, especially from the Government’s junior Coalition partner.

However – and without seeking to encourage inaction on heavy vehicle emission standards – progressing action on the emissions standards for light (passenger) vehicles presents an opportunity to the Coalition that tangibly demonstrates its commitment to public health and net zero emissions, and at much lower political risk.

As the Government’s Draft Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS), “Light Vehicle Emission Standards for Cleaner Air[2] from October 2020 indicates [my highlights]:

there is a strong case for mandatory standards to reduce noxious emissions from road vehicles. The costs of air pollution from road vehicles are not borne directly by the vehicle manufacturers or by owners but are shared by the community. As such the problem cannot be addressed effectively by the operation of market forces alone as there is no commercial reason to do so. Government action to strengthen noxious emissions standards are internationally recognised as a very effective measure to reduce urban air pollution, and such standards have managed to deliver improvements in urban air quality despite growth in vehicle use.

Further:

Noxious emissions from road vehicles reduce urban air quality, leading to premature death and illness among Australians. …our current noxious emissions standards now trail most other developed countries including the EU, US, Canada, Japan and South Korea.

The Draft RIS then proposes:

…that the Government mandate Euro 6d for light vehicles for all newly approved models manufactured from 1 July 2027 and for all new vehicles manufactured from 1 July 2028.

Indeed, I would highly recommend that the Federal Government fast-track the Euro 6d mandate for light vehicles, commencing the mandate much earlier than 2027-28 and within the next term of Government.

This commitment – and the framing its introduction within the next electoral term – would be a very useful concrete measure for the Prime Minister and Australian Government to deploy at the forthcoming Glasgow 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26).

May I then kindly request – when will the Government make its decision about the introduction of more stringent light and heavy vehicle emissions standards, and what will be the likely timeframe for their commencement?

Will the Government be adopting the core proposal of the relevant Draft RIS, namely, adopting a Euro 6d mandate for light vehicle emissions standards?

I hope that the Government can see both the political opportunity this proposal presents, as well as the public health and environmental benefits it would create for our fellow Australians.

Yours sincerely,

Michael Cornish

15 / 10 / 2021

Cc Dr John Kunkel, Chief of Staff, PMO

[1] See: https://www.smh.com.au/national/our-dirty-fuel-is-a-bigger-killer-than-covid-19-how-australia-fails-on-car-emissions-20200909-p55tri.html

[2] See: https://www.infrastructure.gov.au/sites/default/files/migrated/vehicles/environment/forum/files/light-vehicle-emission-standards-for-cleaner-air.pdf

Update 1: Australian sandalwood conservation

Essentially the same letter as the one to the Federal Threatened Species Scientific Committee, but this time to the WA Threatened Species Scientific Committee:


Dr Andrew Burbidge
Chair
Threatened Species Scientific Committee
Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions
c/o BENTLEY DELIVERY CENTRE, WA 6983

 

Dear Dr Burbridge,

Re: Australian sandalwood (Santalum spicatum)

I write to you as a former Senior Policy Adviser for the Federal Member for Mayo, Ms Rebekha Sharkie MP, and with a keen interest in environmental issues. Thank you in advance for your consideration of my correspondence.

Specifically, I am writing out of interest and concern regarding the status of Australian sandalwood, noting that it does not appear on the current Federal EPBC Act List of Threatened Flora[1], nor on the Western Australian Threatened and Priority Flora List[2].

According to research published last week by academics from Charles Sturt University and Curtin University, “[a]cross its entire range in Australia’s western and southern rangelands, Australian sandalwood (Santalum spicatum [R.Br.] A.DC.) is on a path towards ‘extinction in the wild’––the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s penultimate category of conservation risk.[3]

According to a related article from The Conversation by the same authors, they estimate that “175 years of commercial harvesting may have decreased the population of wild sandalwood by as much as 90%”, and conclude that “It’s time to list sandalwood as a threatened species nationally, and start harvesting only from plantations to give these wild, centuries-old trees a fighting chance at survival.[4]

May I kindly inquire, will the Committee undertake a review of the Western Australian sandalwood listing to ascertain whether it should be placed on the Western Australian Threatened and Priority Flora List (or other relevant list), and if so, when, and if not, why not?

Further, what conservation efforts are the Western Australian Government taking to protect and conserve remaining sandalwood trees in the wild?

Thank you again for your consideration.

Yours sincerely,

Michael Cornish

15 / 10 / 2021

[1] See: https://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publicthreatenedlist.pl?wanted=flora

[2] See: https://www.dpaw.wa.gov.au/plants-and-animals/threatened-species-and-communities/threatened-plants

[3] McLellan R. C., Dixon K., Watson D. M. (2021) Prolific or precarious: a review of the status of Australian sandalwood (Santalum spicatum [R.Br.] A.DC., Santalaceae). The Rangeland Journal; see: https://www.publish.csiro.au/rj/RJ21017

[4] See: Kingsley Dixon, Richard McLellan, and David M Watson, ‘Loved to death: Australian sandalwood is facing extinction in the wild’, The Conversation, 7 October 2021; https://theconversation.com/loved-to-death-australian-sandalwood-is-facing-extinction-in-the-wild-167281

Australian sandalwood conservation

Emeritus Professor Helene Marsh FAA FTSE
Chair
Threatened Species Scientific Committee
c/o Species Information and Policy Section
Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment
GPO Box 858
CANBERRA ACT 2601

 

Dear Professor Marsh,

Re: Australian sandalwood (Santalum spicatum)

I write to you as a former Senior Policy Adviser for the Federal Member for Mayo, Ms Rebekha Sharkie MP, and with a keen interest in environmental issues. Thank you in advance for your consideration of my correspondence.

Specifically, I am writing out of interest and concern regarding the status of Australian sandalwood, noting that it does not appear on the current EPBC Act List of Threatened Flora[1].

According to research published earlier this week by academics from Charles Sturt University and Curtin University, “[a]cross its entire range in Australia’s western and southern rangelands, Australian sandalwood (Santalum spicatum [R.Br.] A.DC.) is on a path towards ‘extinction in the wild’––the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s penultimate category of conservation risk.[2]

According to a related article from The Conversation by the same authors, they estimate that “175 years of commercial harvesting may have decreased the population of wild sandalwood by as much as 90%”, and conclude that “It’s time to list sandalwood as a threatened species nationally, and start harvesting only from plantations to give these wild, centuries-old trees a fighting chance at survival.[3]

May I kindly inquire, will the Committee undertake a review of the Australian sandalwood listing to ascertain whether it should be placed on the EPBC Act List of Threatened Flora, and if so, when, and if not, why not?

Further, what conservation efforts are the Federal Government taking to protect and conserve remaining sandalwood trees in the wild?

Thank you again for your consideration.

Yours sincerely,

Michael Cornish

10 / 10 / 2021

Cc: Threatened Species Commissioner, Dr Sally Box

[1] See: https://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publicthreatenedlist.pl?wanted=flora

[2] McLellan R. C., Dixon K., Watson D. M. (2021) Prolific or precarious: a review of the status of Australian sandalwood (Santalum spicatum [R.Br.] A.DC., Santalaceae). The Rangeland Journal; see: https://www.publish.csiro.au/rj/RJ21017

[3] See: Kingsley Dixon, Richard McLellan, and David M Watson, ‘Loved to death: Australian sandalwood is facing extinction in the wild’, The Conversation, 7 October 2021; https://theconversation.com/loved-to-death-australian-sandalwood-is-facing-extinction-in-the-wild-167281

Update 8: Australian ratification of the Minamata Convention on Mercury

The Hon Sussan Ley MP
Minister for the Environment
PO Box 6022
House of Representatives
Canberra ACT 2600

 

Dear Minister,

RE: Australian ratification of the Minamata Convention on Mercury

May I thank and congratulate you and the Government for now progressing Australia towards ratification of the Minamata Convention.

I note the report of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (Report #197) has recommended ratification and to discard any potential pursuit of an exemption for High Pressure Mercury Vapour (HPMV) lamps:

The Committee supports the Convention and recommends that binding treaty action be taken. The Committee recommends the Government reassess the need to seek an exemption to allow for the continued importation of HPMV lamps into Australia, considering such an exemption to be reputationally damaging and of limited practical benefit.[1]

Further, as per the transcript of the relevant Committee hearing, the only other countries seeking this type of exemption are Botswana, China, Ghana, India, Iran, Lesotho, Madagascar and Thailand.

The following exchange at the Committee hearing underlines the point:

CHAIR: Would it be correct to say that Australia is the only developed or OECD country that’s seeking an exemption to allow us to continue to import HPMV lighting?

Ms Douglass: To my knowledge, yes.

CHAIR: It seems like rather odd company to be keeping, with those countries you mentioned.

May I please inquire, what is the expected or approximate timeframe now for Australia’s formal ratification of the Minamata Convention?

Further, could you please confirm whether Australia will – uniquely for an OECD country – seek an exemption to the Convention, or whether it will now seek to ratify without exemption?

Yours sincerely,

Michael Cornish

29 / 9 / 2021

Cc: Mr David Sharma MP, Chair, Joint Standing Committee on Treaties

Cc: Secretariat of the Minamata Convention on Mercury, United Nations Environment Programme

[1] p.v, Report 197, Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, August 2021; tabled 1 September 2021

Update 7: Australian ratification of the Minamata Convention on Mercury

The Joint Standing Committee on Treaties released their report today:

Relevant recommendations from the report reproduced below:


Recommendation 2
3.122 The Committee supports the Minamata Convention on Mercury and
recommends that binding treaty action be taken.

Recommendation 3
3.123 The Committee recommends the Government reassess the need to seek an
exemption to allow for the continued importation of High Pressure Mercury
Vapour (HPMV) lamps into Australia, considering such an exemption to be
reputationally damaging and of limited practical benefit.


City of West Torrens – Net zero emissions target

Mayor Michael Coxon
City of West Torrens
165 Sir Donald Bradman Drive
Hilton SA 5033

 

Dear Mayor Coxon,

RE: City of West Torrens – Net zero emissions target

Thank you in advance for your time in considering my correspondence.

I write to you as a resident of the City of West Torrens who, like so many other residents, have deep concerns regarding how slowly Australia is responding to the threats posed by climate change and the lasting costs that this delay – let alone the delay of other countries – will have upon our local community, Australia, and the world.

I recognise that the Council’s role in this global issue is small, but its decision to act can still be important. Indeed, the Council is to be commended for all its work to date on mitigating and adapting to climate change.

However, I could not locate any evidence of a Council commitment to a net zero emissions target. It is widely understood that there will need to be a global net zero emissions target by at least 2050 – and ideally much sooner – if we are to stave off the very worst impacts from climate change.

May I kindly inquire, has the Council adopted a net zero emissions target, and if so, by what year has that target been set, and what plans have been adopted to reach that target?

If no target has been set, why not, and will you be pursuing the adoption of a net zero emissions target for the City of West Torrens as soon as possible?

Thank you again for your consideration of my correspondence.

Kind regards,

 

Mr Michael Cornish

30 / 8 / 21

Cc Chief Executive Officer, Mr Terry Buss PSM

Update 6: Australian ratification of the Minamata Convention on Mercury

The transcript of the hearing of the Joint Committee Inquiry into the Convention’s ratification became available within the last few days, see: https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Joint/Treaties/MinamataConvention/Public_Hearings.


Mr Dave Sharma MP
Chair
Joint Standing Committee on Treaties
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600
e: [email protected]; [email protected]

 

Dear Mr Sharma

Re: Inquiry into the Minamata Convention on Mercury, vapour lamps exemption

I write to you as a submitter to the Inquiry into the Minamata Convention on Mercury. For additional context, I was a former Senior Adviser to the Federal Member for Mayo, Ms Rebekha Sharkie MP, with carriage at the adviser level for Centre Alliance’s environment portfolio (amongst other portfolios).

I read the transcript of the inquiry hearing of 9 August 2021 with great interest. I wholeheartedly agree with your analysis and concern for the exemption to the Convention being sought by Australia until December 2023, namely, an exemption to import restrictions for high-pressure mercury vapour lamps for general lighting purposes.

This concern would no doubt be shared by the environmental NGOs who made submissions to the Committee.

I too see no good need to delay the inevitable transition away from mercury vapour lights that is, according to the account provided in the hearing, already complete or underway in all Australian State and Territory jurisdictions.

Additionally, as you and fellow Committee Members collectively noted in the hearing:

  • The exemption would deny Australia “a benefit of $17.3 million from energy savings and around $4.4 million from carbon savings”, i.e. an estimated opportunity cost to Australia of $21.7 million;
  • Australia would be the only OECD country to seek an exemption to the treaty, alongside small group of countries – China, India, Thailand, and a cluster of sub-Saharan African countries;
  • Australia is already an international laggard in its ratification of the treaty, with (“approximately”) 120 of 128 original signatories having already ratified;
  • Seeking an unnecessary exemption may undermine Australia’s negotiating position in the future direction of the Convention, a key interest that was identified in most industry submissions to the Inquiry; and
  • The Lighting Council of Australia did not evidence sufficient concern on the matter to make a submission to the Inquiry.

Further, the serious underlying health and environmental concerns that drive the impetus of the Convention – and Australia’s ratification of it – can only be undermined by any exemption.

In conclusion, I strongly urge that the Committee recommend that there be no exemption for mercury vapour lighting sought in Australia’s ratification of the Minamata Convention on Mercury.

Thank you again for your time in considering my correspondence.

Yours sincerely,

Michael Cornish

25 / 8 / 2021

Cc Doctors for the Environment Australia
Cc Environmental Justice Australia
Cc Conservation Council of SA