Monthly Archives: June 2022

Cooloola threatened by commercial development

The Queensland Government is currently considering a proposal for five privately owned “eco-accommodation” camps along the Cooloola Great Walk in Great Sandy National Park. 

We have previously expressed our concerns about private development in national parks. The opportunity for private, commercial accommodation in national parks was created by the Newman LNP government in 2013. They amended the Nature Conservation Act 1992, firstly to broaden the Object of the Act from simply protecting nature to providing recreation and eco-tourism facilities and then to provide for leasing land within national parks to eco-tourism operators to provide accommodation for paying guests. 

The Queensland Ecotourism Trails program was initiated by the Department of Tourism, Innovation and Sport in 2018 when they called for expressions of interest from private investors in providing ecotourism experiences, including “low-impact structures” at three sites, the Thorsborne Trail on Hinchinbrook Island, the Whitsunday Island Trail and the Cooloola Great Walk. The processes for the Thorsborne Trail and Whitsunday Island Trail have been abandoned as they did not meet the expectations of the community and traditional owners. 

The Cooloola Great Walk Ecotourism Project is proceeding apparently with strong support from the government. A preferred proponent, CABN, has been appointed. 

Of the five proposed eco-accommodation camps proposed by CABN, two are of particular concern. One is at Lake Poona and the other alongside the Noosa River. 

Lake Poona 

Lake Poona is the only perched lake on sand on the Australian mainland. It is surrounded by rainforest including areas of a Threatened Ecological Community listed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999

Lake Poona

The proposed development would construct 10 cabins in the forest just 100 metres from the lake on the hillside overlooking the lake. This would fundamentally destroy what is now an essentially pristine environment — a true wilderness. 

A little history of Cooloola 

Cooloola is a sand mass essentially equivalent to Fraser Island, Bribie Island, Moreton Island and North and South Stradbroke Islands, but it happens to adjoin the mainland. 

Sand-mining companies became interested in the area around 1963 and mining for rutile and zircon began at Inskip Point in 1966. Noosa Parks Association, led by Dr Arthur Harrold, began the campaign against sand mining in 1963. 

In 1970, applications were made for 10 sand-mining leases on the dunes of Cooloola. The Bjelke-Petersen government was supportive. Arthur Harrold, with Bill and Mavis Huxley, formed The Cooloola Committee to fight sand mining. A major campaign began, led by Arthur and the Huxleys together with Ca-loundra wildflower artist, Kathleen McArthur, and her friend, Judith Wright, arguably Australia’s greatest poet. The campaign was successful with a small group of Liberal Party members of the government opposing the granting of the new sand-mining leases. Sand mining was still occurring between Double Island Point and Freshwater Creek on the eastern side of Cooloola under the earlier leases. Cooloola National Park was finally declared in 1975 but it excluded the central core which remained as State Forest. It also excluded the western catchment but that was added later as a re-sult of the continued efforts of Arthur Harrold and Bill Huxley. In 1990, the Commission of Inquiry into the Conservation, Management and Use of Fraser Island and the Great Sandy Re-gion led by Tony Fitzgerald QC recommended logging cease in the region and as a consequence the State Forest “hole in the heart” was transferred to national park. Tony Fitzgerald recommended the Great Sandy Region be nominated for World Heritage listing and ARCS was commis-sioned by the Queensland and Federal governments to prepare the nomination. The nomination included both Fraser Island and Cooloola but assessment by IUCN recommended Cooloola be excluded essentially because Fraser Island was an easily defined geographical area. There is no dispute that Cooloola is of World Heritage value.

The proposed development

The national park on the Cooloola sand mass was not an initiat-ive of government. It did not become national park because the government recognised its conservation values. It became na-tional park as a result of the devotion of conservationists, Arthur Harrold, Bill and Mavis Huxley, Kathleen McArthur, Judith Wright and many others. It is greatly distressing that their vision of Cooloola permanently set aside for the protection of nature could be destroyed for private profit, accommodation for a wealthy few and a little government revenue. Greg Wood, with whom we worked in the lead up to the SEQ Forests Agreement, is co-ordinating a campaign to try to stop the development. A web site has been set up where you can download postcards to email government ministers and there is a petition on

Please visit the web site, send an email to ministers and sign the petition. 

Proposed commercial development beside Lake Poona

Keith Scott

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Native forest logging adds to the climate-biodiversity crisis

Industry advocates commonly refer to statements in reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that sustainable forest management for timber can contribute to mitigation of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. Those statements are based on misleading accounting. It is only a matter of time before the new accounting standard formally accepted by the UN SEEA-EA in March 2021 is adopted in IPCC reports and hence the accounting standard for Nationally Determined Commitments (NDCs). It is clearly important to have credible, transparent statistics for the Global Stocktake (GST), a process for taking progressive stock of the world’s collective progress towards achieving the purpose of the Paris Agreement and its short- and long-term goals . It is also important to note that IPCC reports are conservative representing compromises resulting from (a) heavy lobbying from vested interests, (b) various necessary assumptions and (c) simplifications due to the complexity of issues considered.

Native forest logging in Queensland

In Queensland, it is likely that only around 50% of the wood harvested in a native forest operation finds its way to a sawmill . In the harvesting process, only around 40% of the log is recovered as sawn timber. Hence, no more than 20% of the carbon removed from the forest in a native forest logging operation ends up in anything that could be called long-term storage. Up to 80% of the harvested carbon will contribute to GHG emissions and will not be recovered through future growth for many decades. As discussed in the climate change article on pages 1 and 2, reduction in emissions has to occur urgently. Added to the direct emissions are those produced by harvesting machinery, transport and sawmilling. Native forest logging is a direct contributor to Queensland’s GHG emissions. In 2018 Queensland’s GHG emissions were by far the highest of any state or territory in the country. In the same year, Tasmania’s total emissions were negative which represents a 111.2% reduction compared to the year 2005. That reduction is recognised as being the result of reductions in native forest harvesting. In 2018, all states and territories except Queensland and Northern Territory had negative emissions from the Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) sector.

State and Territory Greenhouse Gas Inventories 2018, Australian Government
Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources

Biodiversity impacts

The Koala and Greater Glider are now listed as ‘Endangered’ in Queensland and nationally. The south-east subspecies of the Yellow-bellied Glider has been listed as ‘Vulnerable’. The Conservation Advice provided in relation to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act specifies logging as a ‘Severe’ threat to the Greater Glider. All three species occur in State Forests subject to logging. The ‘Code of practice for native forest timber production on Queensland’s State forest estate 2020’ includes requirements for retention of habitat trees for Greater Gliders (and other hollow-dependent species) and feed trees for Yellow-bellied Gliders but otherwise makes no provision for these threatened species. The Koala is not mentioned in the Code. 

Greater Glider — Photo: Esther Beaton

The climate-biodiversity crisis

It is now clear that the climate crisis cannot be solved without solving the biodiversity crisis . They are linked as part of complex adaptive systems which requires systems thinking rather than traditional linear thinking. 

Biodiversity loss is projected to be one of the largest environmental crises of all times and will collapse economies and societies. Swiss Re, the insurance group, estimated the global value of biodiversity at $33 trillion a year, close to the combined GDP of the US and China, with more than half of global GDP dependent on biodiversity and ecosystem services. Urgent and unprecedented transformational change is required across all sectors of society including governance.

Native forest logging must stop

The required transformational change involves considering the future of all activities that are currently contributing to climate change and biodiversity loss. One such activity is native forest logging. As a result of negotiations between the timber industry and the Queensland Government, the ‘Native timber action plan’ was announced in November 2019. The plan aims to provide a sustainable future for the native timber industry. It is inappropriate and unfair to workers in the industry to be giving false hope of security by promoting the objective of a long-term sustainable future for a declining industry fraught with uncertainty. Now is the time to plan for alternative opportunities for both businesses and workers. A key feature of complex adaptive systems is uncertainty and the potential for hard-to-predict, likely irreversible, phase shifts or “tipping points”. For example, populations of common species, even whole ecosystems can suddenly collapse if positive, reinforcing feedback mechanisms become dominant including through management interventions such as logging. 

Keith Scott & Aila Keto 

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Climate change will be catastrophic

I want you to act as you would in a crisis.
I want you to act as if our house is on fire.
Because it is.

Greta Thunberg

All the available evidence indicates that the planet is heading for a climate catastrophe but governments are not responding accordingly. In the words of UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, “Climate change is moving faster than we are.”

When considered over a geological timescale, atmospheric CO2 is increasing at an extraordinary rate. The lower line in the graph below shows that by 1960 the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere was greater than it had ever been over 800,000 years. And since 1960 it has continued to soar.

It is generally accepted that we should be trying to keep the global temperature increase to 1.5°C. In 2017, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimated the net amount of carbon that the world could add to the atmosphere through emissions and keep the temperature rise to 1.5°C, i.e. the remaining carbon budget. IPCC determined that if the world reduced annual emissions the carbon budget would not be used up until around 2050, the time by which global emissions would need to be net zero (emissions balanced by removals into carbon sinks, particularly forests).

The remaining carbon budget for a 1.5°C increase was estimated for 2017 with a 50% probability to be 580 billion tonnes of CO2 or, with a 66% probability, 420 billion tonnes.

Current estimates are that the remaining carbon budget will be used up within about a decade. That means the global temperature is expected to be 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels soon after 2030. And that will happen unless we take immediate and drastic action to reduce emissions. If we carry on ‘business as usual’ the global temperature rise will be greater, potentially much greater, than 1.5°C. Transformational change is required in virtually everything we do.

Since 2017, emissions have continued to increase thus reducing the remaining carbon budget. The increase in emissions in 2021 was the largest ever recorded. IPCC reported the remaining carbon budget in 2020 as 500 billion tonnes with a 50% probability or 400 billion tonnes with a 66% probability. A recent report, by 94 scientists from 70 research centres around the world including CSIRO, puts the remaining carbon budget in 2021 at 420 billion tonnes with a 50% probability.

Despite the warnings from IPCC and many others, our political leaders still talk about net zero emissions by 2050. We need to reach net zero by 2030 or very soon after. Or else!

At the COP26 Conference held in Glasgow in November 2021, the Parties were exhorted to not only commit to net zero emissions by 2050 but to raise their 2030 commitments. Australia declined to change the 2030 commitment of 26–28% reduction having just managed to get the National Party to agree to net zero by 2050.

The newly elected Labor government has a commitment to a reduction of 43% by 2030, far short of what is necessary.

It is virtually inevitable that global temperature will increase by more than 1.5°C. IPCC predicted a range of consequences, some of which have already been experienced, e.g. extreme weather events including severe bushfires in Australia, North America, the Amazon, Indonesia and Siberia, extreme temperatures (50°C in Canada), flooding in Asia and Europe, drought in eastern Australia followed by severe flooding. The Great Barrier Reef, along with other coral reefs around the world, is predicted to suffer severe impacts from a rise of 1.5°C with some damage being irreversible.

Given the likelihood of the temperature increase being 2°C or more, the Great Barrier Reef will almost certainly die.

The graph below which is reproduced from IPCC 2018 indicates the rate at which greenhouse gas emissions have to be reduced to reach net zero by 2040. An even greater rate of reduction is necessary to reach net zero by 2030 or soon after which now needs to be the objective.

Could anyone believe that governments around the world will turn emissions around within a couple of years and achieve a rate of reduction greater than that at which they have been recently increasing? According to Simon Sharpe, University College of London, we need to decarbonise five times faster than we have been carbonising. Catastrophe looks inevitable.

Australia’s role

Our political leaders like to tell us that Australia is responsible for just 1.4% of global emissions so it doesn’t matter what we do about emissions. It won’t make any difference! But that ignores the contribution we make to global emissions through coal and gas exports. These ‘Scope 3’ emissions are not counted in our Nationally Determined Commitment.

Coal and gas together are responsible for around 60% of total global greenhouse gas emissions. Australia is the world’s largest exporter of coal when thermal and metallurgical coal are combined and is now the world’s largest exporter of natural gas. A study by Climate Analytics in 2019 concluded that when emissions from our exported coal and gas are included, Australia’s contribution to global emissions was around 5%. And that is not counting the impact of flaring and methane leakages. Methane is 84 times more powerful than CO2 as a greenhouse gas and whereas it has a short life, around eight years, it is converted in the atmosphere by oxidative reactions to CO2.

While all evidence points to an urgent need to reduce the use of fossil fuels, Australia plans large-scale expansion of coal mining and gas extraction. And the newly elected federal Labor government has promised not to block any new coal mines.

Based on projected increases in Australia’s exports of fossil fuels, Climate Analytics found that Australia could contribute 13% of global emissions in 2030 assuming a 45% reduction occurs globally as determined by IPCC to be required to keep temperature increase below 1.5°C.


Burning wood for electricity production has been growing around the world, especially in the European Union. Advocates claim replacing coal with wood will reduce emissions. Burning wood from forests has been considered ‘carbon neutral’ because the trees regrow and sequester the carbon that is released by burning. An EU report in 2020 put the contribution of forestry to total renewable energy at 37%. The simplistic argument is that wood is a renewable resource so the energy produced by burning it is renewable energy.

But burning wood immediately adds CO2 to the atmosphere and it will not be removed by regrowth for decades. We don’t have decades to wait for the carbon to be removed.

European countries have been determining their CO2 emissions and hence their national commitments under the Paris Agreement on the assumption that burning wood for electricity generation produces zero emissions. Huge volumes of wood, largely from forests in USA and eastern Europe, are imported to be burned in European Union countries and UK. It is commonly claimed that the wood burned for electricity generation comesfrom ‘residues’ but there is ample evidence that whole trees are being used and forests devastated.

Whole logs stacked at Drax plant in Mississipi ready for conversion to wood pellets for export to UK.

Cutting down native forests for biofuels destroys the very carbon sink critically needed to remove the CO2already emitted which otherwise would remain in the atmosphere for up to tens of thousands of years.

Recently, the Environment Committee of the European Parliament voted in favour of removing subsidies for woody biomass and excluding it from counting towards renewable energy targets. The recommendation will go before the parliament possibly later this year. The overall process is amendment of the Renewable Energy Directive. This month, the parliament’s Energy Committee will make a separate recommendation.

In the UK, the Drax power station uses wood to generate electricity and is the country’s biggest carbon emitter. It is reported to use 7 million tonnes of wood every year.

We note the Queensland Government has been exploring harvesting native forests to produce biofuels (wood pellets).

Leadership is sorely needed

The world is in need of brave leaders. As teenage Swedish activist Greta Thunberg said, “What do we do when the politics needed are nowhere in sight?”

The forces against urgent climate action are strong. The fossil fuel lobby and the timber industry lobby affect government decisions. They affect the final reports of IPCC which are negotiated outcomes after the scientists have provided their input. We need political leaders with the strength to reject the lobbying.

In Australia we need politicians with the ability to lead the required just transformational change and to take the community with them, with the ability to show the coal community that they can have a different and better future.

We need a leader who understands that Australia can set an example, develop a plan that rapidly phases out fossil fuel production and exports and provides a just transition for industries and communities that have depended on fossil fuels. Gaining the support of the Australian people will require a true leader. Do we have one?

Aila Keto and Keith Scott

References for this article can be found at

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