Remarks to UNAA World Environment Day Awards Presentation Dinner | Mark Butler MP
Thanks very much to the UN Association of Australia for the
invitation to be here with you tonight at the 2014 World Environment Day
We’ve seen wonderful examples of projects from big and small
business, NGOs, Local Councils and schools- all against the backdrop of
the United Nations. And that’s as it should be, because it’s hard to
think of an area of human endeavour that more neatly blends local and
global perspectives than the protection of our natural environment.
And the nominees all remind us that, in Australia, we are blessed
with an extraordinary natural environment stretching from the Wet
Tropics and the Great Barrier Reef down to the Tasmanian Wilderness with
so much else in between.
But Australia’s beautiful environment is also vulnerable. We were
reminded again this week by the latest Reef Report Card that the Great
Barrier Reef faces multiple threats from climate change such as rising
sea temperatures, ocean acidification and more intense cycles and
storms; as well as the ongoing impact of human activity along the
Queensland coast. The Tasmanian Wilderness remains bedevilled by the
ongoing conflict over the right balance between industry and
conservation. We’re also reminded as an El Niño system apparently builds
that our southern waterways, in particular, remain vulnerable to
Australia has always respected the role of the UN, through UNESCO and
the World Heritage Committee, in providing a framework for countries
like Australia to deal with challenges like these. Ours was only the
seventh nation to sign onto the World Heritage Convention 40 years ago.
In that time, we’ve served four terms on the World Heritage Committee.
We have always been an exemplary citizen of the World Heritage system.
These issues and more are highly topical today. The World Heritage
Committee meets this fortnight and will consider contentious positions
on two Australian World Heritage properties – the Great Barrier Reef and
Tasmanian Wilderness. The Australian Parliament over the next several
weeks will debate legislation variously about climate change, renewable
energy, and the Government’s plans to hand over its environmental
protection powers to State Governments and Local Councils, including the
protection of World Heritage properties. These debates will all be
robust and vigorous, as they should be; because, whatever your view
might be about all of those issues, policies that impact how we protect
and nurture our natural environment should always be strongly tested.
The recipients of tonight’s awards, and all the other nominees, play a
critical role in Australia’s conservation efforts and I thank them for
their dedication to protecting and promoting our beautiful environment.
These remarks were made to the United Nations Association of
Australia World Environment Day Awards Presentation Dinner in Sydney on
13 June 2015.