The federal environment minister has flagged a new biodiversity credits scheme that would pay Australians to repair and nurture the habitat on their properties.
Tanya Plibersek has outlined her vision to put a price on efforts to restore the environment and arrest the shocking declines detailed in a major report last week.
She has told a biodiversity conference it would work much like the carbon credits scheme.
"Carbon revenues are creating incentives for tree planting across Australia, but if we also put a value on biodiversity, we can do more than plant trees. We can restore our ecosystems," Ms Plibersek said on Wednesday night.
"Biodiversity credits could reward the planting of vegetation along a hillside to stop erosion and to protect the local soil. It could reward the creation of connectivity between different habitats, providing corridors for survival for threatened species."
She said governments alone could not shoulder the enormous cost of undoing the damage that has already been done to the landscape and the plants and animals that depend on it.
"Governments can't do the job alone,'' Ms Plibersek said.
"The Australian Land Conservation Alliance estimates that we need to spend over $1 billion a year to restore and prevent further landscape degradation, which means that we need to work with industry and philanthropic partners."
She said companies that have to offset unavoidable environmental impacts could also be potential buyers in a biodiversity credits market.
"... if offsets are required, we need absolute confidence that projects are delivering the intended biodiversity benefits and will continue to do so in perpetuity, or for as long as required,'' Ms Plibersek said.
"A credible market for biodiversity can provide this confidence."
She said she would have more to say in coming weeks about her interest in supporting the development of a voluntary market in biodiversity.
Last week's five-yearly State of the Environment report provided a confronting assessment of ecosystem health.
It found the overall condition of the environment was poor and deteriorating, with climate change adding a devastating new layer to the accumulation of other threats.
The report said the result was a growing list of threatened species trying to survive in shrinking and degraded ecosystems that were being ineffectively managed under an inadequate set of laws, with too little money.
Ms Plibersek has since promised a fundamental overhaul of federal environment laws, with new ones to be put to parliament next year.
Australian Associated Press
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