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Bushfire Royal Commission commonsense recommendations welcome

The Commonwealth Bushfire Royal Commission has concluded hazard reduction burning is not a cure-all that will protect communities from catastrophic fire events.

“The commissioners agree with us that hazard reduction is a vital tool in protecting communities and environmental assets,” Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said.

“But they also agree hazard reduction alone is not a panacea — it is not a silver bullet that will eliminate bushfire risk entirely. It must be combined with a range of other measures. [1]

“We applaud the Commissioners’ recommendation to better integrate the protection of environmental and heritage assets in emergency planning and response. 

“Under the current arrangements in NSW, old sheds and derelict houses receive more protection than environmental or cultural assets in an active fire situation.

“The protection strategy that was developed and deployed for the Wollemi Pine during the fires showed what can be done.

“The Commissioners have also highlighted the need to help communities prepare for bushfires and recover when the fires have passed through. 

“The Nature Conservation Council is proud to have provided these sorts of services over many years and we stand ready to expand them if required.

“The Commissioners acknowledge that past carbon emissions have locked in temperature rises for next 20 to 30 years, but the trajectory beyond that horizon depends very much on the emissions reduction strategies we adopt today. [2]

“We call on all governments to heed this call and commit Australia to zero emissions by 2050 target  in line with the Paris Climate Agreement.”

REFERENCES 

[1] Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements, October 30, 2020. See page 375.

There is strong interest in, and polarising views on, fuel management activity, particularly prescribed burning to manage fuel loads.

We heard many perspectives from public submissions that describe prescribed burning as, in effect, a panacea – a solution to bushfire risk. It is not.

Part of the explanation for the strength of views of fuel load management, and prescribed burning in particular, may be due to a lack of community understanding about its effectiveness and the factors that influence the choice of strategy. 

[2] Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements, October 30, 2020. See page 22.

Extreme weather has already become more frequent and intense because of climate change; further global warming over the next 20 to 30 years is inevitable. Globally, temperatures will continue to rise, and Australia will have more hot days and fewer cool days. Sea levels are also projected to continue to rise. Tropical cyclones are projected to decrease in number, but increase in intensity. Floods and bushfires are expected to become more frequent and more intense. Catastrophic fire conditions may render traditional bushfire prediction models and firefighting techniques less effective.

 

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