Australia has a new independent and expert voice for biodiversity with the launch of the national Biodiversity Council in Melbourne earlier this month.
The Biodiversity Council has been funded through 11 Australian universities and several philanthropic grantees, among them The Ross Trust and AEGN members The Ian Potter Foundation, The Rendere Trust, Isaacson Davis Foundation, Angela Whitbread, Trawalla Foundation and Coniston Foundation.
To have an organisation that can be for biodiversity what the Climate Council is for climate is extremely exciting, and the AEGN is delighted that our members have come together to play such a significant role in its establishment. Their collaboration with the university sector demonstrates a new way of working where different thinkers, problem-solvers and innovators can come together to drive positive change.
Collaborating for collective impact
“For me, it’s all about collaboration,” says The Rendere Trust’s Strategic Director and co-founder Jim Phillipson. “Rendere thrives on working with others and harnessing the power of the AEGN network, so we’re delighted there’s been such a strong force of members really backing this initiative.
“We have years, not decades, to tackle biodiversity loss, and what we do between now and 2030 is critical. That’s the reason we’ve helped to conceive, support and grow the Biodiversity Council as well as support several parallel initiatives across the sector, including the AEGN’s Nature Funding Framework, which will enable funders to achieve greater impact together. So, our investment in the council falls within a broader strategy of supporting and enhancing biodiversity.”
Protecting Australia’s biodiversity and halting its destruction is core business for the AEGN, and in 2023 we will be launching several new initiatives to address the biodiversity crisis, including developing a Nature Funding Framework outlining opportunities for strategic philanthropy in Australia.
A biodiversity crisis
Australia’s land and biodiversity is highly distinctive and home to many unique plants and animals — around 90 per cent of Australian mammals, frogs, reptiles and plants are found nowhere else. We have a lot to protect. Yet the latest State of the Environment report shows our biodiversity is declining and the number of threatened species is increasing, with at least 19 ecosystems now showing signs of collapse or near collapse.
Habitat loss and degradation, invasive species and climate change are all key challenges, with biodiversity loss and climate change mutually reinforcing each other in a viscous cycle. Neither will be successfully resolved unless both are tackled together.
Indeed, in an interview with The Guardian, Ilsa Colson, the council’s incoming executive director, commented that “biodiversity loss and climate change are the two existential challenges of our time, yet biodiversity loss receives much less attention than the climate crisis. The council will seek to change this”.
This work will include projects to help people understand what biodiversity is — the variety of all life on Earth — and how the loss of that biodiversity is rapidly unpicking the ecosystems on which humans depend for food, clean air, water, medicines, happiness and wellbeing.
Integrating expertise and knowledge
The Biodiversity Council will integrate expertise and knowledge to foster public, policy and industry recognition of the biodiversity crisis, the importance of biodiversity for wellbeing and prosperity, and positive opportunities and solutions to address these challenges. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ knowledge and wisdom will be integral to this approach.
The Biodiversity Council will be initially hosted by one of its supporters, the University of Melbourne, with its work supported and complemented by other expert bodies. It will also partner with non-government organisations, First Nations organisations, land managers, landholders and community networks.
Founding universities: Australian National University, Charles Darwin University, Deakin University, Macquarie University, Monash University, the University of Adelaide, the University of Canberra, the University of Melbourne, the University of Sydney, the University of Queensland and the University of Western Australia