20 Dec 2021
BECOMING CLIMATE-READY: WHAT WWF-AUSTRALIA AND GREENING AUSTRALIA ARE DOING ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE
It’s no secret that climate change is projected to intensify globally. In Australia, we’ve already seen its disastrous effects unfold in real-time, after experiencing the devastating bushfires of 2019-2020. It’s time to ask the question, ‘how can people reduce climate change?’, and start taking steps to look after our future.
At COP26 the urgent need for ecosystem restoration was recognised, with Australia committing to a target of net-zero emissions by 2050, approximately 20 years behind most other nations. If we continue to take a ‘business as usual’ approach to combating climate change, our risk of natural disasters will increase, and our vulnerable ecosystems could completely collapse by 2030.
Right now, we need to learn, adapt and scale new solutions quickly to help fight the catastrophic impacts of climate change. That’s why we’ve joined forces with Greening Australia to do just that, delivering our science-led program, Climate-ready Restoration.
Our plan for Climate-ready Restoration
Finding and championing new ways to restore nature so that it’s strong enough to survive for future generations, is what we call ‘climate-ready restoration’.
This process is at the heart of our Climate-ready Restoration Plan that we’ve developed with Greening Australia. The plan outlines our shared 2030 vision; for nature to be robust enough to withstand the impact of climate change, and thrive for generations to come.
Our plan to turn this vision into reality combines innovation, science, and Indigenous ecological knowledge. We use this information to power practical, nature-based solutions to combat climate change.
The three main focus areas of the plan are to:
1. Improve biodiversity
Biodiversity supports everything in nature that life on Earth needs to survive. We plan to improve biodiversity by helping threatened species become more resilient to the impact of climate change. We can do this by future-proofing their habitats. One of the priority actions in the plan is to build 1000 hectares of new habitats in climate-ready, ‘safer’ locations suitable for future rewilding.
2. Safeguard ecosystem services
Nature gives us countless benefits such as food, water, medicines, energy and more. These are called ecosystem services. As the climate changes, these natural life support systems are becoming more vulnerable. Our plan to safeguard ecosystem services will be prioritised in places that are important to people's well-being, like water catchments, making them more climate-resilient.
3. Reduce climate-induced risk to ecosystems
A key part of the plan is finding and applying innovative solutions to reduce climate-induced ecosystem risks. This includes investigating planting designs that measurably reduce climate impacts, including bushfires, drought and extreme temperatures.
Our priorities for achieving climate-ready restoration
1. Accelerating innovation for climate-ready impact
It’s time to think outside the norm for combating climate change, so we’re using WWF-Australia’s award-winning Panda Labs to encourage innovation. We’ll be uniting experts from diverse fields such as fire ecology, artificial intelligence, reforestation and climate forecasting, to rapidly test new solutions.
2. Experimenting with climate-adjusted seeds
We know that continuing to reseed sites with species less likely to thrive in a changing climate, won’t help us prepare well for the future. In large bushfire-affected areas, we’ll trial planting climate-adjusted seeds. These are seeds from the same species that appear to thrive better in certain locations with hotter temperatures, making them more resilient to climate change.
3. Trialling new seeding methods at scale
To learn how to radically scale up planting and restoration approaches, we’ll trial new seeding methods at scale, including drone seeding of burnt landscapes.
4. Testing climate-resilient species planting
We’ll work with experts to undertake large scale experimental trials of aerial seeding for climate-adjusted species, in areas more vulnerable to climate change.
5. Helping areas most vulnerable to climate change to regrow and thrive
In high conservation value areas, we’ll partner with the public, Indigenous and private landholders to help natural revegetation using an assisted regeneration approach. This means we’ll give nature a little help to recover, by doing things like removing weeds and putting up fences to stop domestic animals from eating saplings.
We’ll also work with Traditional Owners and Indigenous Ranger groups, experimenting with cultural burning as a tool for building landscape resilience and reducing fire risk.
6. Investigating planting and landscaping designs to reduce bushfire risk
We’ll work with fire ecologists to find out which vegetation types, plant densities, plant arrangements and species types will help reduce bushfire risk. Then, we’ll formalise planting designs and create five demonstration sites for local communities, making it easy for everyone to implement.
7. Assessing if windbreaks can help rainforests recover from bushfires
Rainforests are still vulnerable to the impacts of fire even if they aren’t burnt directly. When dry vegetation surrounding a rainforest burns, the rainforest becomes more exposed to wind and moisture evaporation. To counteract this, we’ll trial planting windbreaks to see if we can reduce the post-fire impacts on rainforests.
8. Rewilding to create resilience with ‘ecosystem engineers’
Potoroos, bettongs and bandicoots are the ‘engineers’ of ecosystems because they like to dig. This increases soil turnover, soil moisture, nutrient cycling and seed germination. It also means more leaf litter is buried, creating conditions for cooler burning bushfires.
To help plants and soil flourish in the face of climate change, we’ll focus on establishing strategies to restore ‘ecosystem engineers’ to their former landscapes.
9. Bringing communities with us for nature-based solutions to bushfire risk
A mismatch exists between actual and perceived bushfire risk in some communities. This may be causing delays and poor outcomes for both people and nature.
We’ll coordinate community engagement and communication between fire agencies, social scientists and disaster psychologists, to help encourage more eco-wakening and increase support for revegetation in bushfire management and recovery plans.
10. Developing national guidelines for revegetation in bushfire-prone areas
Without careful planting design and national guidelines, revegetation activities on such a large scale may inadvertently increase fire risk. As such, we’ll work with fire ecologists and firefighting agencies to explore the science and develop national guidelines for revegetation in bushfire prone landscapes.
A strategic partnership to make it happen
From resilience to transformation, adapting to climate change will require new ways of thinking and storied expertise. Two of the country’s best-known environmental organisations, Greening Australia and WWF-Australia, have formed a strategic Climate-ready Restoration partnership.
With Greening Australia’s landscape restoration expertise and WWF-Australia’s global knowledge of wildlife conservation, we each have a strong track record in building climate resilience. Together, we offer unparalleled brand recognition, credibility and trust.
In joining forces and combining our strengths, we’ll build on existing science and lead the way for practical, on-ground solutions to combat climate change.
Greening Australia and WWF-Australia have already committed at least A$20m to projects and programs up to 2025. This funding will directly advance the objectives and vision of this program.
Not only will this partnership enhance coordination, leverage cross-sectoral action, and investment. It will ultimately deliver the impact we need, addressing climate as a contributing factor to improving sustainability.
Becoming climate-ready is a team effort
We know climate change is affecting us all. So, everyone has a role to play in stopping or reducing the severe, devastating impacts of climate change.
Scientists, government agencies, philanthropists, businesses, climate change groups and members of the community; all need to work together to help Australia become climate-ready.
Together, we’ll action the Climate-ready Restoration plan. Informed by existing scientific and Indigenous ecological knowledge, the plan will be delivered using scientific methodology.
We’ll engage with existing community-based practitioners, regional land management practitioners, networks, climate change groups and institutions. Together, we’ll jointly explore what works and what doesn’t. Ultimately, we want to help local practitioners to embed climate-ready restoration within local plans and priorities.
To maximise impact, we aim to scale this program to a national level. We’ll achieve this by sharing the learnings and outcomes of our plan in a clear and accessible way, delivered across the wider restoration and land management sector nationwide.
Help us take action where it counts
You can make a difference today. Become a partner and join us in rebuilding vital homes for our wildlife. Be part of the Climate-ready Restoration.