New Biodiversity Council to Fight the Extinction Crisis

The biodiversity crisis is resulting in catastrophic declines in the unique plants, animals, and ecosystems of megadiverse Australia.

This biodiversity underpins our economy, food systems, water and health, as well as our culture and identity. There is a pressing need for policy and industry response to the crisis to be rapid and underpinned by evidence and indigenous knowledge.

Leading experts including Indigenous knowledge holders from 11 Australian universities have united with philanthropists to form a new council which will advocate for biodiversity.

The Biodiversity Council, will foster public, policy and industry recognition of the biodiversity crisis, the importance of biodiversity for wellbeing and prosperity, and positive opportunities and solutions to address these challenges.

The Minister for Environment and Water, Tanya Plibersek MP, launched the Biodiversity Council in December 2022. “It’s my great pleasure to launch the Biodiversity Council at the University of Melbourne,” Minister Plibersek said.

“Australia is one of the world’s 17 ‘megadiverse’ countries. We’re determined to stay that way and protect our unique plants and animals. One of my first decisions as Minister was to declare a goal of zero extinctions. But to achieve that government needs to work hand in hand with scientists, advocates, First Nations and the community.”

Incoming Council Executive Director Ilsa Colson said there is growing momentum and investment to find solutions to the biodiversity crisis.

“Biodiversity loss and climate change are the two existential challenges of our time, yet biodiversity loss receives much less attention than the climate crisis. The Council will seek to change this.” – Ms Ilsa Colson, Council Executive Director.

Inaugural Chief Councillors, Dr Jack Pascoe, Yuin man and Conservation and Research Manager at the Conservation Ecology Centre, and former Queensland Chief Scientist Professor Hugh Possingham see a crucial role for the Biodiversity Council.

“The recently-released State of the Environment report underscores a growing recognition that Australia’s biodiversity is declining dangerously fast, with significant implications for our economy, food systems, health, wellbeing and culture,” Dr Pascoe said.

“It also highlights the importance of Indigenous Knowledge in addressing these challenges. The Biodiversity Council will provide a platform to ensure First Nations voices are heard in advocating for healthy country.”

Professor Possingham highlights that, “There is currently no specialist biodiversity think-tank providing commentary on the adequacy of current policy, bringing together expertise to support all levels of government and industry to enact solutions, halt extinctions and reverse biodiversity loss. The Council will be Australia’s voice on biodiversity.”

University of Adelaide members of the Biodiversity Council include Associate Professor Patrick O’Connor and Associate Professor Phill Cassey are counsellors, and Professor Hugh Possingham (Chair of the Environment Institute Advisory Board) is a board member. Through the Environment Institute, the University of Adelaide is a founding partner helping secure funding for the first 4 years of operations.

A/Prof Patrick O’Connor

A/Prof Patrick O’Connor from the Centre for Global Food and Resources at the University of Adelaide said “the nature of biodiversity loss as a side-product of economic development means that government, business and community must align towards a more holistic view of development that includes the conservation of our unique resources.  It is time for knowledge of a sustainable way forward to be discussed and shared in public debate.”

The Biodiversity Council is initially hosted by the University of Melbourne. It is established through a significant grant from the Ian Potter Foundation and generous contributions from six other philanthropic grantees including Angela Whitbread, the Coniston Charitable Trust, Isaacson Davis Foundation, the Ross Trust, the Rendere Trust and Trawalla Foundation, along with 11 founding universities. These include Australian National University, Charles Darwin University, Deakin University, Macquarie University, Monash University, the University of Adelaide, the University of Canberra, the University of Melbourne, the University of Sydney, the University of Queensland and the University of Western Australia.

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