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Environmental Law Professor appointed to new Biodiversity Council

Partners | Newsroom

Australia’s new Biodiversity Council will look to turn science into reform with the help of the School of Law’s Professor Jan McDonald.

Professor McDonald, an expert on environmental law, has been appointed to the Council, which will provide advice to government and raise awareness of species decline.

“Australia is facing an extinction crisis,” Professor McDonald said.

“The combination of climate change, extreme events, invasive species and land-clearing for agriculture, forestry, mining and urban development is causing unprecedented and unsustainable rates of decline.”

The new organisation aims to be a trusted expert voice on biodiversity, playing a similar role to the respected Climate Council.

Human economies, food systems, water, health and culture all face threats from declines in plants, animals and ecosystems. The Council will look to foster recognition of the crisis, along with the importance of biodiversity and the opportunities for solutions.

It brings together experts, including Indigenous knowledge holders, from 11 Australian universities.

Professor McDonald will bring a legal lens to the Council with the aim of turning scientific advice into meaningful action.

“Law plays a crucial role in minimising the adverse impacts of activities that can affect biodiversity and by imposing obligations on government and landholders,” she said.

“Having legal expertise on the Council can help ensure that key messages from conservation science can be targeted to reform proposals that will achieve maximum impact.”

Biodiversity decline will create particular challenges for Tasmania, Professor McDonald said.

“As the coldest part of Australia, Tasmania will play an increasingly important role as a climate refuge for many species,” she said.

“It is essential that future planning for range-shifting species ensures that Tasmania’s unique biodiversity is not compromised in the process.”

The appointment is recognition of Professor McDonald’s leading role in environmental and climate law research, and the School of Law’s continued focus on the most pressing legal issues of our time.

The Biodiversity Council, which will be based at the University of Melbourne, was launched this month by the Minister for Water and Environment Tanya Plibersek.