Devastating reef snapshot shows increased climate ambition must be top priority for next government

A new report which found that 90% of surveyed areas in the Great Barrier Reef bleached in a marine heatwave earlier this year shows an emergency response to slash emissions must be an urgent priority for the next Australian government.

The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) is calling for both major parties to drastically increase their 2030 emissions reductions targets in response to this latest mass bleaching event, the fourth since 2016 and the first in a La Nina year, which is usually characterised by cooler, cloudier conditions.

AMCS Great Barrier Reef campaign manager Dr Lissa Schindler said the annual snapshot containing the bleaching map was devastating news for anyone who loves the Reef.

“This was a La Nina year, normally characterised by more cloud cover and rain. It should have been a welcome reprieve for our Reef to help it recover and yet the snapshot shows more than 90% of the reefs surveyed exhibited some bleaching,” she said.

“Although bleaching is becoming more and more frequent, this is not normal and we should not accept that this is the way things are. We need to break the new norms that are breaking our Reef.

“Although the ALP has a better emissions reduction target than the Coalition, both major political parties need to face up to the fact that their climate goals are not enough for the Reef. They are not enough for the 64,000 people working in Reef tourism and connected industries, not for the millions from around the world who have visited or want to visit the Reef. This is an Australian icon that we must do everything within our power to protect.

“By taking the action required and embracing the huge opportunities of the renewable energy revolution in Australia, we can help protect tens of thousands of Reef jobs and create thousands more in clean energy. So what are we waiting for?”

The annual Reef Summer Snapshot 2021-22 prepared by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) with the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) and CSIRO shows major, extreme and severe bleaching was recorded throughout the central zone of the World Heritage site.

The document also shows extensive and severe bleaching from Cairns to the Whitsundays, including the popular tourism destinations of Magnetic Island, the Palm Island Group, Fitzroy and Green islands.

Dr Schindler added: “This Reef has given Australians so much but now more than ever it needs us as custodians to fight harder for its future.”

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