Australia has a rich biodiversity, with between 7 and 10 per cent of all species on Earth occurring here. There are between 600 000 and 700 000 species found in Australia, many of which are unique (endemic) to the country. The main drivers affecting the state of the environment are recognised as being climate change, population growth and economic growth.
In recognition of the immensity and relevance of these issues in current debates and challenges facing government in Australia and internationally, the House Standing Committee on Climate Change, Environment and the Arts sought to conduct an inquiry into climate change impacts on biodiversity, and on 2 June 2011 adopted broad terms of reference, with a focus on nationally important ecosystems.
The terms of reference were:
The Committee will inquire into and report on biodiversity in a changing climate, in relation to nationally important ecosystems. The inquiry will have particular regard to:
- terrestrial, marine and freshwater biodiversity in Australia and its territories
- connectivity between ecosystems and across landscapes that may contribute to biodiversity conservation
- how climate change impacts on biodiversity may flow on to affect human communities and the economy
- strategies to enhance climate change adaptation, including promoting resilience in ecosystems and human communities
- mechanisms to promote the sustainable use of natural resources and ecosystem services in a changing climate
- an assessment of whether current governance arrangements are well placed to deal with the challenges of conserving biodiversity in a changing climate
- mechanisms to enhance community engagement.
The scope of the committee’s inquiry shall include some case studies of ‘nationally important ecosystems’, as defined by submissions to the inquiry.