People Could Be Threat To Ecology

People could be threat to ecology

The Age
June 6, 2010

The Rudd government will consider adding ''human population growth'' to a key list of ecological threats that underpins Australia's environmental laws.

Environment Minister Peter Garrett has confirmed that population growth will be weighed up to determine whether it represents a ''threatening process'' responsible for widespread biodiversity loss, water pollution, coastal erosion and rising greenhouse gas emissions.

If population growth is added to the list by Mr Garrett following an assessment by his department's Threatened Species Scientific Committee, the government would then be forced to adopt a mitigation plan to deal with the damage it inflicts, including urban land clearing, increasing water use, increasing fire risk and waste disposal.

In a letter to Labor MP Kelvin Thomson, Mr Garrett confirmed that ''human population growth in Australia'' would then also be included as part of the government's most important environmental law, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

After late last year declaring himself in favour of a big Australia, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd earlier this year announced he had appointed Agriculture Minister Tony Burke as Australia's first Population Minister to consider whether current rates of growth were sustainable.

It followed a prediction by Federal Treasury that Australia's population would swell from about 22 million to 35.9 million in 2050, with overseas migration by far the biggest contributor.

Over the past 10 years, 19 key environmental threats have been listed as threatening processes under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Act, which is the government's central piece of environmental legislation.

But only two – fire risks from introduced grasses in northern Australia and the introduction of weeds through garden plants – have been listed under the Rudd government.