Australia map

Australia's landmass, of over 7.6 million square kilometres, gives it a wide variety of landscapes. Australia has tropical rainforests in the north-east, mountain ranges in the south-east, south-west and east, and dry desert in the centre. It is the flattest continent, with the oldest and least fertile soils; and as the driest inhabited continent, its annual rainfall averaged over continental area is less than 500 mm. The desert or semi-arid land commonly known as the Outback makes up by far the largest portion of Australia's land. The population density, at 2.8 inhabitants per square kilometre, is among the lowest in the world, although a large proportion of the population lives along the temperate south-eastern coastline. (Wikipedia)

Quick Facts

Land use

Total land area
768,230,000 hectares
Area of forest
16.2% of land area
Area of agriculture
51.6% of land area
Area of permanent cropland
0.1% of land area

People

Population
23.8 million
Population growth
1.3% annually
Rural population
11.0%

Economics and development

GDP from agriculture
2.4%
GDP per person
56327.70 USD

Climate change and biodiversity

CO2 emissions
16.30 metric tonnes per person
Threatened animal and plant species
928
National Restoration Targets
UNFCCC NC5 and NC6
Sixth National Communication to the UNFCCC (2013)

Australia’s climate change strategy rests on three key pillars: reducing Australia’s emissions, adapting to unavoidable climate change and helping to shape a global solution.

Australia has provided a total of approximately $490 million of new and additional financial resources for climate change programs in developing countries since the Fifth National Communication. This includes an investment of $273 million in the International Forest Carbon Initiative- Australia’s key contribution to global action on REDD+.

The government has introduced an approximately $1 billion Land Sector Package (page 77). The Land Sector Package comprises a range of measures, including the Carbon Farming Futures Program and the Biodiversity Fund. These encourage participation in the Carbon Farming Initiative, a voluntary emissions offsets scheme, and low emissions practices.

Australia has launched the Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI). Under the CFI, farmers and land managers are able to generate credits for activities undertaken on their land that lead to reductions in carbon emissions or increase the removal of carbon from the atmosphere.

A Biodiversity Fund has been created to improve the resilience of Australia’s unique species to the impacts of climate change, enhance the environmental outcomes of carbon farming projects, and help landholders protect biodiversity and carbon values on their land. It involves funding of nearly $450 million for the land sector to undertake projects that establish, restore, protect or manage biodiverse carbon stores on public and private land, including: reforestation and revegetation in areas of high conservation value such as wildlife corridors, rivers, streams and wetlands, and management and protection of biodiverse ecosystems, including publicly owned native forests and land under conservation covenants or subject to land clearing restrictions (NC6, p. 103).

Fifth National Communication to the UNFCCC (2010)

The Australian Government will establish an emissions trading system, the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) as the primary policy mechanism to reduce Australia’s emissions by putting a price on greenhouse gas emissions. 

To reduce Australia’s deforestation emissions further, the CPRS will create incentives to encourage and protect forest regrowth on deforested land. 

The National Climate Change and Commercial Forestry Action Plan 2009–2012 addresses tree plantations developed for commercial purposes at all scales, wood production from native forests (excluding all native forests that are not harvested), processing facilities that rely on raw material from production forests.

Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Country Profiles – NBSAPs, National Reports (5th)
NBSAP 2010 - 2030

Australia's NBSAP lists action 2 as: Building ecosystem resilience in a changing climate. The policy states that enhancing the capacity to adapt to, survive and recover from changes and disturbances will help Australia’s biodiversity to persist under existing threats and as our climate changes.

There are three sub-priorities:

  1. Protecting diversity
  2. Maintaining and re‑establishing ecosystem functions
  3. Reducing threats to biodiversity

In turn, each of these sub-priorities lists key outcomes. Points relevant to FLR are summarised below:

Protecting diversity

  • An increase in the number, extent and condition of ecosystems protected under secure conservation tenure
  • An increase in the extent of private land managed for biodiversity conservation
  • An improvement in the conservation status of listed threatened species and ecological communities
  • A net national increase in the extent and condition of native habitat across tenures

Maintaining and re‑establishing ecosystem functions

  • An increase in the connectivity of fragmented landscapes and seascapes
  • An improvement in the provision of environmental water allocations
  • An improvement in the use of ecological fire regimes to conserve biodiversity and protect the public

The policy also includes Target 5: By 2015, 1,000 km2 of fragmented landscapes and aquatic systems are being restored to improve ecological connectivity; and Target 6: By 2015, four collaborative continental-scale linkages are established and managed to improve ecological connectivity.

Strategy for the National Reserve System 2009-2030

Goal is to develop and effectively manage a national system of protected areas as the primary means of securing long-term protection for Australia’s terrestrial biodiversity.

National Report 2014

The Australian Government announced that 20,000,000 trees will be planted by 2020 under the Twenty Million Trees programme that will commence mid-2014 (page 66).

United Nation Forum on Forests (UNFF) National Reports
UNFF Report 10 (Year: 2012)

Part 1, Section 2C (page 6): 1992 National Forest Policy Statement:  The Australian, state and territory governments are committed to the sustainable management of all Australian forests, whether the forest is on public or private land, or reserved or available for production.

Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs):  20-year plans for the conservation and sustainable management of Australia's native forests. There are 10 RFAs in four States: Western Australia, Victoria, Tasmania and New South Wales. The RFAs provide certainty for forest-based industries, forest- dependent communities and conservation.

Biodiversity Fund: Australia will invest up to $946m over 2012-2018 to help land managers store carbon, enhance biodiversity and build greater environmental resilience across the Australian landscape. It will fund land managers for activities which restore, manage and better protect biodiversity on public and private land, such as to improve connections between remnant native vegetation. 

Other (National Strategies and Plans, Rural Development Programs, Natura 2000 areas, projects, and goals)
Australia’s State of the Forests Report, Five-yearly report (2008-2013)

Australia’s State of the Forests Report, Five-yearly report (2008-2013) (2013) lists several major national policies on management of forests and land, including:

  • Caring for our Country: National-level program that encouraged re-establishment, restoration and maintenance of native vegetation, including forests, for protective functions (page 204) 
  • Criterion 4 Conservation and maintenance of soil and water resources – Indicator (4.1a)  A total of 29.8 million hectares of Australia's public forest (24% of the total forest area, almost entirely native forest) is managed primarily for protective functions including protection of soil and water values. This area comprises all public nature conservation reserves; in some states and territories, those parts of multiple-use public forests in which wood harvesting and road construction are not permitted; and catchments managed specifically for water supply (SOFR 2013 pg 87).
  • Rehabilitation and reforestation for protective functions: 2005-2010 Greening Australia planted 15.5 million seedlings, seeded 19,000 km of tree line, conserved 340,000 ha of native vegetation (forest and non-forest), and constructed 8,000 km of protective fencing.
National Forest Policy 1992

The policy lists broad national goals, these are: 

  • Conservation: to maintain an extensive and permanent native forest estate and to manage it in an ecologically sustainable manner for the full range of forest values
  • Private native forests: to encourage the retention and better management of private native forests, both for resource and conservation reasons
  • Plantations: to expand commercial plantation development on cleared private land, both to provide additional timber resources and to help address land degradation problems on farmland
National Indigenous Forest Strategy

This policy calls for better forest and plantation management and use to achieve greater economic, social, environmentally sustainable and cultural benefits for all Australians, especially Indigenous Australians (page 1).

Plantations for Australia – A 2020 Vision

Plantations for Australia: the 2020 Vision is a strategic partnership between the Australian, state and territory governments and the plantation timber growing and processing industries with an aspirational target of establishing 3 million hectares of plantation forest by the year 2020, tripling the area of commercial tree crops to 3 million hectares by 2020 (from 1997 plantation area numbers).

As per the Australian Bureau of Statistics – Measures of Progress in 2010, the total plantation forest area was 2,020,000 ha. in 2009. Therefore the remainder of the plantation goal for 2010 beyond is 980,000 ha.

The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences reported in the Australian plantation statistics 2015 update that Australia’s total plantation estate was 1 999 700 hectares in 2013‒14.

Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (2013). Carbon Farming Futures (CFF)

This programme, now terminated and transitioning to the Emissions Reduction Fund, included the following:

  • Providing $286 million over six years towards research, farm trials and extension of abatement technologies and practices to assist land managers reduce agricultural greenhouse gas emissions from livestock and cropping and horticulture productions systems and increase storage of carbon in the landscape while enhancing sustainable agriculture production (page 4).
  • Allows landholders to earn carbon credits for reducing emissions or storing carbon on their land, and achieves abatement and restoration through giving tools to stakeholders.
  • Restoration Tools: Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI) Mapping Tool, CFI Rainfall Map, Reforestation Modeling Tool, and Reforestation Abatement Calculator
Department of the Environment (2013). Biodiversity Fund (National Commitment 6)

This policy focuses on projects to re-vegetate, rehabilitate and restore over 18 million hectares of the Australian landscape over six years with $450 million budget 

  • 100,000 ha of land nation-wide will be re-vegetated 
  • 5 million ha will be restored 
  • 13 million hectares will be protected from invasive species (rabbits, etc.)
  • Reforestation and re-vegetation in areas of high conservation value such as wildlife corridors, rivers, streams and wetlands
  • Management and protection of biodiverse ecosystems, including publicly owned native forests and land under conservation covenants or subject to land clearing restrictions
     
Indigenous Protected Area Programme

This policy:

  • Supported Indigenous communities to develop and declare 59 Indigenous Protected Areas (IPAs) covering more than 47 million hectares of land contributing to landscape scale connectivity, particularly in central and northern Australia ( NC6, 2013, page 170)
  • Supported Indigenous communities to develop and dedicate 72 Indigenous Protected Areas (IPAs) covering more than 65 million hectares of land contributing to landscape scale connectivity, particularly in central and northern Australia. (http://www.dpmc.gov.au/indigenous-affairs/environment/indigenous-protected-areas-ipas ).

It also outlined Indigenous Ranger Programmes:

  • Almost half of all dedicated IPAs are also supported by a Commonwealth funded ranger group.
  • A total of $335 million, over five years (2013-18), is committed to Indigenous Ranger programmes which funds 777 full-time equivalent (FTE) ranger positions.

This creates meaningful employment for around 1,983 Indigenous people to implement land and sea management plans, including; 

  • Cultural heritage management and transfer of Indigenous ecological knowledge through community events, database management and traditional owner consultation.
  • Ecosystem restoration, including; weed management, erosion control, revegetation and feral animal control. 
  • Survey and monitoring, including collaboration with conservation organisations, government agencies and research bodies.
  • Threatened species management, including; habitat restoration, rehabilitation and data collection. 
  • Management and protection of carbon stores through traditional burning and revegetation.
  • Visitor management activities, including education and reducing visitor impacts. 

In addition to environmental outcomes, WoC and IPA programmes have demonstrated positive social, cultural and economic benefits, as highlighted by a recent Social Return on Investment Analysis (http://www.dpmc.gov.au/news-centre/indigenous-affairs/indigenous-protected-areas-getting-positive-results)

Environmental Stewardship Programme

This program is closed to further funding applications, but existing projects continue to be implemented and managed.

It focuses on providing support to private landholders to maintain and improve the condition of matters of national environmental significance through payments over 15 years to protect and improve the condition of environmental assets on private land (several woodlands and grassy woodlands are part of the program’s project portfolio).

National Wildlife Corridors Plan: A framework for landscape-scale conservation, 2012

Implementation of this program has ceased. The connectivity principles and objectives outlined within the Plan continue to be applied and pursued in both existing and new programs and policies. These are:

  • Retain, restore and manage ecological connections in the landscape and increase the resilience of Australia’s native plants and animals and agricultural landscapes to the impacts of climate change with $10 million budget (NC6, 2013, page 170)
Department of the Environment and Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (2014). National Landcare Programme

This policy lists several Strategic Objectives, Outcomes, and Contributions that are relevant to FLR:

Objective (1): Communities are managing landscapes to sustain long-term economic and social benefits from their environment. 
Outcome (1): Maintain and improve ecosystem services through sustainable management of local and regional landscapes.
Contribution (1): Protection and restoration of ecosystem function, resilience and biodiversity; appropriate management of invasive species which threaten ecosystems, habitats or native species

Objective (2): Communities are protecting species and natural assets
Outcome (2): Increase restoration and rehabilitation of the natural environment, including protecting and conserving nationally and internationally significant species, ecosystems, ecological communities, places and values
Contribution (2): Reduce the loss of natural habitats, degradation and fragmentation; protecting or conserving Matters of National Environmental Significance including management of World Heritage Areas, Ramsar wetlands, national heritage etc; reduce the number of nationally threatened species and improve their conservation status

Under land care networks grants and funding, 291 projects will be undertaken to conserve and protect local environments and manage the natural resource base.

It also references the 20 Million Trees Programme by 2020 which involves planting 20,000,000 trees to reestablish green corridors and urban forests through projects that involve revegetation activities to establish native trees and associated native understory species.

As of 8 March 2016, $42.88million (GST exclusive) was announced across 166 projects to plant more than 13.5 million trees. As of 31 March 2016, $42.7m was committed, planting 13.4m trees over 164 projects.

Emissions Reduction Fund (2014)

The Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) is a $2.55 billion fund that provides incentives for emissions reduction activities across the Australian economy. It builds on the Carbon Farming Initiative. The ERF operates through three central functions:

  • Crediting emissions reductions that have been certified by the Clean Energy Regulator, based on methodology determinations considered by an independent assurance body
  • Purchasing by the Australian Government of credited emissions reductions through auctions where the lowest bids are bought first and payment, under contract, is tied to delivery
  • Safeguarding of public money spent on reductions by ensuring that these are not offset by significant increases in business-as-usual emissions elsewhere in the economy

A total of 143.2 million tonnes of greenhouse gas abatement was contracted through three auctions conducted up to April 2016.  Of this total, vegetation projects accounted for 98.5 million tonnes.

    Under the ERF, methodology determinations (methods) are the technical, legislative instruments that define which emissions reductions activities are eligible and how the emissions reductions are to be measured, verified, reported and monitored.

    The following Land Sector - Vegetation Management Methods are available:

    • Avoided clearing of native regrowth
    • Avoided deforestation
    • Designated Verified Carbon Standard projects 
    • Human-induced regeneration of a permanent even-aged native forest
    • Farm forestry plantations
    • Native forest from managed regrowth
    • Reforestation and Afforestation
    • Reforestation by Environmental or Mallee Plantings
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