Coming out of the pandemic, the world’s nations are this month coming together to map out a plan for the decade ahead, with a specific focus on negotiating long term plans for nature and the climate. With Queensland on the frontlines of both climate and biodiversity crises, it’s important that we watch these global talks with our own state in mind.

In the lead up to the main climate talks in Glasgow on climate, world leaders met virtually to discuss the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). This was an opportunity to review the achievements and delivery of the CBD’s Strategic Plan for Biodiversity from 2011 and look forward to the post-2020 global framework.

The most ambitious, and indeed most widely supported proposal put forward at these talks was a plan to protect 30% of the world’s lands and seas by 2030, otherwise known as ‘30 by 30’.

From the Grand Canyon to Kakadu and the Great Barrier Reef, protected areas ensure nature is conserved for future generations.

This means habitat for endangered species is safeguarded, management strategies are prioritised for the health of the land, and areas are created for people to connect with nature and culture. To protect and manage 30 per cent of the world’s land and sea countries, we will need investment in diverse new protected areas, including marine parks, national parks, Indigenous protected areas and protected areas on private land.

This plan would need to be implemented in partnership to benefit both people and nature. It must take lessons from partnerships with Indigenous peoples, farmers and other landholders to ensure that nature is protected not only for the environment but for local communities. It must learn from prior mistakes and not reinforce colonial conservation practices.

Another key thread to come from this meeting was the desire not only to protect ecosystems for people and nature but to create a ‘nature positive’ future by restoring the damage that has been done to the world’s most important environments and ensuring their sustained health for future generations.

For Australia to achieve these goals, we must see our government step up to the plate and protect 30 per cent of our continent’s land.

We should be proud of the fact that Australia has already protected more than 30% of our oceans, but there is scope to build on this by increasing the extent of highly protected marine sanctuaries, which have powerful benefits for marine wildlife and habitats.

In Queensland, national parks and protected areas on private land (nature refuges and special wildlife reserves) are crucial to protecting the native plants and animals that call Queensland home – some found nowhere else on the Earth. The Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat is just one of our native animals under threat that relies on its home being protected, with approximately 300 currently finding safety in Epping National Park and Underwood Nature Refuge.

Endangered Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat

Investing in nature means investing in jobs, wildlife tourism, local communities, our health and wellbeing… the list goes on. Not only do they preserve the very nature that we rely on to survive but they are the foundation of our multi-billion-dollar tourism industry, contribute to our economy and provide land management jobs and training opportunities for regional and remote communities. As with the recent example of four national parks on Cape York being handed back to Traditional Owners, they are also creating opportunities for joint management and land justice.

The Queensland Government has already committed to doubling the size of our protected area network to protect at least 17 per cent of Queensland – in line with past global targets – but this is undermined by chronic under-investment. If we continue to falter in achieving this target, we will put people, nature and our future in Queensland at risk.

As we watch world leaders discuss plans to preserve our nature and climate, let’s also ensure that the Queensland Government picks up the pace to protect our natural places.

Ultimately these global plans must come in tandem with local efforts to ensure nature is healthy and resilient in the face of biological and climate crises.

Hannah is a campaigner for the Our Living Outback alliance, working to grow and better manage Queensland’s national parks and protected areas on private land.

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