Hunter wetlands and agricultural areas threatened without climate change action: report

Hotter, drier Hunter future Threatened: Kooragang wetlands is under threat because of climate change, a new report has shown.

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Changes: Kooragang wetland frogs will face particular challenges in a warmer world.

Future: Researchers at Kooragang wetlands. A new report considers the future risks of climate change on areas like wetlands.

Threat: Koalas are already at risk but face their biggest challenge yet from climate change and its impacts on koala habitats.

TweetFacebook Climate change and a warming world will hit the Hunter hard: new report Hunter wetlands and agricultural areas will be hit hard in a drier, hotter future+4Hunter wetlands and agricultural areas will be hit hard in a drier, hotter futureMORE GALLERIES

facebookSHAREtwitterTWEETemailwhatsappcommentCommentsTHE Hunter will be a hotter, drier, less agriculturally productive region and its wetlands and native wildlife, including koalas, will be under threat if its four coal-fired power stations are not closed by 2030, a new climate change report has warned.

Hot, Dry and Deadly: Impacts of Climate Change on Nature in NSWis released in Newcastle on Thursday, a day after Australia’s major energy retailers urged Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to introduce a clean energy target.

The Nature Conservation Council report used CSIRO climate change modelling to warn that farm productivity in some parts of the state, including the Hunter, could fall by up to 13 per cent if Australia does not respond to a Paris agreement commitment to restrict global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius.

“We hope this report inspires those who love nature to get on board our campaign to #Repower NSW with renewable energy to protect the places and species we love,” council chief executive Kate Smolski said.

The report urged government action to stop new coal mines and enact policies to bring forward the closure of the state’s five coal-fired power stations, including Bayswater, Liddell, Vales Point and Eraring in the Hunter, by 2030.

NSW Nature Conservation Council chief executive Kate Smolski

During his meeting with energy retailers on Wednesday Mr Turnbull said the government had no plans to invest in a new coal-fired power plant, butcoal would continue to play a key role in Australia’s electricity market.

“We have a vested interest in demonstrating that coal has a high-efficiency, low emissions future,”Mr Turnbull said.

“I would welcome a high-efficiency, low-emission coal-fired power station being built in Australia.”

His comments are at odds with major Hunter energy retailer AGL Macquarie, which recently ruled out coal as an energy source in future and said wind and solar were the “most economic options” to meet the state’s power needs.

The Nature Conservation Council report said European settlement led to a significant decline in native vegetation. About 40 per cent of native vegetation had been cleared since 1788 and only 9 per cent was in good condition, the report said.

“More than 100 species have become extinct since 1788 and over 1000, including 60 per cent of all mammal species, are now threatened with extinction,” MsSmolski said.

“Key threats are land clearing, habitat fragmentation, invasive species and changed fire regimes. Human-induced climate change has now been added as a potent part of the mix.”

The report found 80 per cent of greenhouse pollution in NSW comes from burning coal, oil and gas.

“To do our fair share to meet Australia’s commitment, along with 190 countries, to reduce pollution and restrict warming to below 2 degrees, we need to reduce emissions to zero by 2040 at the latest and retire our coal-fired power stations by 2030,” Ms Smolski said.

The plunging numbers of koala populations in NSW would only worsen with global warming, as warmer temperatures affect food sources and wetland areas where some tree species favoured by koalas are found.

The report said Lake Macquarie and Tuggerah Lakes seagrass meadows, which represent two of the state’s five recognised seagrass areas, are threatened by rising sea levels. This will have a direct impact on many species that use and feed in seagrass meadow areas.

The report found NSW released about four times more greenhouse pollution per person than the global average, with emissions from the state’s ageing power station fleet as major contributors.

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