Speech to the ACIUCN Global Biodiversity Framework Conference

Thank you for having me this morning, on the home of the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people.

I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land and pay my respect to their elders past and present. 

And I extend that acknowledgement to all the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people joining us today – as partners, experts, and leaders in Australia’s fight for nature.

Friends, scientists, traditional owners, environmentalists.

It’s a great pleasure to open this workshop today.

A workshop where we take the promises we made at Montreal and begin to make them real.

I wanted to be here, to give you my support, because landing that deal last year was such a special moment.

It was a week before Christmas, so it felt a bit like a miracle.

If not a miracle, it definitely felt like a gift.

You never get everything you want at a global conference like that.

But we got a hell of a lot.

More, perhaps, than we really expected going in.

And certainly more than we expected with 48 hours to go.

I was over there in the last week, organising with our friends and allies, and joining the final push for an ambitious agreement.

That final stretch of negotiation got a bit hectic.

But of course, a mountain of work goes into an outcome like that.

Work that starts well before the conference officially begins.

And I think Australians should be proud of that work, of what we accomplished at Montreal.

We were very lucky to have a great team over there, a great delegation.

A delegation that worked closely with our environmental NGOs.

And we also invited David Pocock and Sarah Hanson Young to join us.

It was really refreshing – the way we presented a united front to the world.

Every Australian in Montreal was campaigning for a strong treaty, a substantial treaty.

And I think people noticed that.

They noticed how much Australia’s attitude on the environment had changed in the past twelve months.

And they came to us, they actively sought us out.

I had great conversations with our neighbours in the Pacific.

With ministers from Europe and South America and Africa.

And most interestingly – with my counterpart from China.

I didn’t necessarily expect it, but we ended up speaking for much longer than scheduled.

And I left that meeting with a fresh shot of hope.

China and Australia have real disagreements on some very serious topics.

But for the sake of our planet, it can only be a good thing if our two countries can work together on environmental protection.

China was chairing the talks at Montreal, along with the Canadians.

If you were there, you’ll remember how efficiently they helped secure the final deal.

I think a lot of people were pleasantly surprised at the scale and ambition of the agreement.

The ACF called it ‘one of the most consequential decisions for nature this decade’.

The Secretary General of the UN called it a ‘peace pact with nature’.

And that’s what we hope it will be: a pact.

A pact that manages to combine long term vision with immediate, concrete commitments.

Like the big one – protecting 30 percent of our land and water by the end of the decade.

Like restoring 30 percent of land and water that’s been degraded or damaged.

Like halting the extinction of threatened species.

Reducing the introduction of invasive species.

And integrating biodiversity into decision making across business and government.

One of the noteworthy things about the Montreal agreement is that it isn’t just about protection, in the traditional sense.

It’s about protection and restoration and management.

And that’s what our government means when we talk about being nature positive.

Because we need to protect and conserve the places that matter.

That’s priority number one.

But we also want to set our sights higher than that.

We also want to revive ecosystems that have been damaged in the past.

That’s how we really start to turn the tide, from nature destruction to nature repair.

And that’s what we are seeking to do, across our environmental policies.

To protect more of what’s precious.

To restore more of what’s damaged.

And to manage nature better for the future.

When it comes to the thirty by thirty targets, that means actively growing our national estate.

And we’re doing that in a few ways.

We’re investing $231 million to establish ten new Indigenous Protected Areas.

Areas that will add around five million hectares of protected land, depending on the locations chosen.

We know those locations need to meet our ambition – of being comprehensive, adequate and representative.

We won’t sacrifice quality for quantity.

But we know how powerful these protected areas can be.

Which is why we’re also doubling the number of Indigenous rangers.

Because we know that, when we value First Nations expertise, it’s better for communities, better for local people, and it leads to better outcomes for our environment.

We’re also expanding our system of marine parks, which is already the largest of its kind in the world.

Our proposal to triple the size of the Macquarie Island Marine Park would mean that 48% of our ocean is under protection, and 22% will be highly protected.

Macquarie Island is a place that most of us will never visit.

It’s an outpost of genuine wilderness, sitting on the edge of the world.

But I think Australians can be incredibly proud of the conservation work we’re doing there.

Maybe even more so because we’ll never see it ourselves.

We’re also looking to codify our system of other effective conservation measures.

To build a sold framework, with integrity, to ensure that these measures are ecologically representative and actively managed.

Areas like defence land and water catchments could add to the national estate, as long as they’re managed for conservation purposes.

The first round of public consultation ended in April – and I will keep working with state and territory governments and with people in this room to make sure we get the framework right.

Because this isn’t just about reaching a magic number and then giving ourselves a pat on the back, mission accomplished.

Environmental conservation isn’t just drawing lines on a map.

It needs to be actively managed.

And that’s a focus I’ve tried to bring as Minister.

It’s why we just doubled the federal funding to our national park system in the recent budget, on top of the $276 million we were already investing in Kakadu.

Because if you don’t have the resources to effectively deal with feral animals, or to remove invasive plants, then you’re not actually protecting the ecosystem.

All these pieces fit together.

Protection, restoration and management.

And it’s not just about setting up sanctuaries and national parks.

It’s about considering biodiversity in all its forms, wherever it exists.

It’s why we’re spending $200 million to restore our urban rivers – where about half our threatened animals live, and a quarter of our threatened plants. 

It’s why we’re writing new environmental approval laws.

It’s why we’re creating a new national EPA.

It’s why we’re reforming the broken offsets system.

It’s why we’re establishing the nature repair market – to get more private and philanthropic money into restoration.

And it’s why we’re investing in good environmental data.

So that, for the first time, Australia will be working from the best available picture of nature when we make decisions.

This was something that just got funded in the budget – a new agency, called Environment Information Australia.

It’s one of those things that can get lost in the background, because most people aren’t as excited about data as we are.

It’s hard to believe – but this is what people tell me.

But it’s going to make a massive difference to conservation in this country.

If you want to picture it – think the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics, but for nature.

Experts at the agency will monitor and collate information on threatened species, vulnerable ecosystems, and the state of our environment.

They’ll work with other government agencies and the private sector, because the real multiplier effect will be aggregating and integrating everyone’s data.

And they will publish that information – for all the world to see.

I’m currently scouting for its inaugural head.

If you’re an environmental data nerd, give it some thought.

Because you’ll be doing critical environmental work.

Like reporting on Australia’s progress towards national goals, like our commitment to thirty by thirty.

You’ll be pulling together our reporting on the state of the environment.

And just as crucially – you’ll be releasing it in real time.

Because under our new environmental laws, it will be impossible for governments to hide the facts and avoid accountability.

Friends, this movement we’re all part of is so important and so exciting.

At Montreal, the world came together to turn a new page in our relationship with the planet.

And at workshops like this, held in different countries, speaking in different languages, we’re all filling in the details of that new relationship.

So please – give me your best ideas.

I want to hear them.

I want to learn from your experiences.

And I want to build on them as we go forward.

Thank you to the Australian Committee of the IUCN for hosting this workshop today.

And thank you to everyone participating, for all you do to protect our beautiful country.