On the eve of the United Nations Rio+20 conference, marking 20 years since the Rio Declaration on Sustainable Development, a new report commissioned by Australian Greens has found Australia is failing all of the environmental commitments it signed up to 20 years ago.
"This report finds that Australia is an environmental laggard and is living way beyond its ecological means, despite having the world's sixth largest GDP per capita and being one of the countries most able to afford environmental protection," said Australian Greens environment spokesperson, Senator Larissa Waters.
"The report shows that Australia's indicators of environmental health are on a disastrous trajectory, needing the Australian Government to do much better domestically and to push for strong, legally binding global outcomes at Rio+20.
"The report finds that our national environmental laws favour development over environmental protection, and that 'it is easier and quicker to get a coal mine approved than a threatened species or key threatening process listed' and warns '...it is about to get worse...the Council of Australian Governments has agreed to transfer most federal powers of assessment and approval to the states and territories.'
"The report also shows how our environment suffers because of a chronic failure of governmental priorities, which sees fuel tax credit handouts to the mining industry equal the entire environment portfolio budget, and sees Government spending on the pipedream of low emissions coal equalling funding for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, whose greatest threat is coal.
"As the government delegation and key Ministers prepare to depart for Rio, they should heed the report's conclusion: 'Our continent has already suffered too much damage and loss, and can't afford another 20 years of failure,'" Senator Waters said.