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Environmental law academic appointed to bushfire inquiry

Image: Julienicholls95 [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

ANU climate change expert joins former judge and defence force chief on royal commission

Andrew Macintosh, one of the country’s leading climate change and environmental law academics, has been appointed to a national inquiry into Australia’s bushfire crisis.

He will join Annabelle Bennett, chancellor of Bond University in Queensland and a former federal court judge, and retired defence force chief Mark Binskin, who will lead the inquiry.

Prime minister Scott Morrison announced the appointments on 20 February, along with the terms of reference for the royal commission into the devastating bushfires.

“The inquiry acknowledges climate change, the broader impact of our summers getting longer, drier and hotter, and is focused on practical action that has a direct link to making Australians safer,” Morrison told a media conference in Canberra.

“That’s why we need to look at what actions should be taken to enhance our preparedness, resilience and recovery through the actions of all levels of government and the community, for the environment we are living in.”

He described Macintosh as “a specialist in climate risk and impact management”.

“The three commissioners are respected leaders in their fields and they bring a mix of expertise to the inquiry, including judicial, military and environmental planning and management backgrounds,” Morrison said.

Macintosh is an environmental law and policy professor at the Australian National University in Canberra. He is also associate dean of research with the university’s climate change institute.

He has published research papers on legal structures for climate risk adaptation and management, policy design and global carbon emissions accounting systems.

Macintosh is chair of the Australian Emissions Reduction Assurance Committee, an independent expert group that advises the federal government on the effectiveness of carbon management policies. He is also a member of the expert task force appointed in 2019 to review Australia’s biodiversity protection laws.

The terms of reference for the inquiry include: ways to improve resilience and adaptation to climate change; the use of Indigenous fire management and hazard reduction measures; and improving coordination between federal and state governments during natural disasters.

“I want the royal commission to begin as soon as possible with the final report due back by 31 August, so recommendations can be acted upon before our next bushfire season,” Morrison said.

“I want to thank premiers and chief ministers for their consultative and collaborative approach in drafting the terms of reference. We have listened, valued their input and made changes to take on board feedback where appropriate.”