Australians love nature. We put it on our money and name our sports teams after it. But do we understand just how much we depend on nature or how closely our economic prosperity is tied to the state of our fragile environment?

The changes we have made to the land and seascapes in Australia have driven more mammals to extinction than on any other continent. The 2021 State of the Environment report finds Australia’s natural environment is in an overall poor condition and is deteriorating due to increasing pressure from climate change, habitat destruction, invasive species, pollution, and resource extraction.

Beyond the loss of intrinsic, cultural and ecological values associated with biodiversity, these impacts are likely to have major social and economic consequences. As nature’s limits are exceeded, ecological systems and functions are altered, along with the ecosystem services they provide to people, and nature’s contribution to the economy falls.

This report calculates the Australian economy’s direct dependence on nature and the variation in direct dependency for every major industry sector.

Key findings:

  • Approximately half of Australia’s GDP has a moderate to very high direct dependence on ecosystem services
  • Sectors that have a high or very high direct dependency on nature are responsible for more than three quarters of Australia’s export earnings
  • Each Australian state and territory has a different relative direct dependence on nature, with Western Australia’s economy at the greatest risk from nature destruction
  • Indirectly, there is not a dollar that doesn’t depend on nature – sectors with a lower direct dependency score still depend upon nature through their value chains, and every worker and consumer needs clean air and water, sustenance, their health and a stable climate

Summary of recommendations

Australian businesses should contribute to reversing nature destruction by:

1. Measuring, prioritising, and reporting on nature-related impacts and dependencies to determine the effect their operations, value chains, and investments have on nature. They should also publicly disclose these for transparency.

2. Engaging with suppliers, customers, stakeholders, and investees that have related risks or are themselves sources of risk, and address challenges cooperatively.

3. Once nature-related risks and opportunities are identified, businesses should set time-bound targets and science-based policies to protect nature.

4. Through direct engagement with policy makers, industry associations and via public communications, businesses should advocate for reforms of nature-related public policy, sending clear signals to regulators of the need to protect nature.

5. Implement actions and embed targets into business decision-making as a component of strategy and governance with the highest level of accountability and responsibility.

Government can reverse nature destruction and support the transition to a Nature Positive society by:

1. Creating strong environment laws that protect nature and establishing an independent regulator to enforce them.

2. Increasing public investment in recovering and restoring Australia’s wildlife and ecosystems and leveraging private investment through credible incentives and mechanisms.

3. Championing and leading on ambitious global goals for nature that stop biodiversity destruction, end extinction, and restore nature and require businesses to measure and report on their nature-related impacts and dependencies and reduce harmful impacts.

4. Embedding nature in all decision-making and supporting Australian business to join international efforts to identify and act upon risks to biodiversity by setting national targets implementing effective environmental economic accounting and data collection.

5. Acting now to slash climate pollution by more than half this decade and recognise nature as a climate solution. This will require enormous amounts of renewable energy to be built in Australia, sustainably and in a way that protects nature and is fair for people, especially First Nations people and those dependent on coal and gas.

6. Protecting at least 30% of lands and seas by 2030 including freshwater and inland water systems with particular attention on underrepresented ecosystems.

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