THE UNESCO World Heritage Committee’s intention to change the Great Barrier Reef’s status to ‘in danger’ brings shame on the federal government, which is standing by as the Reef declines rather than fighting to protect it.
“Changing the Great Barrier Reef’s World Heritage status to ‘in danger’ equates to emergency authorities cranking up the fire danger rating to catastrophic,” said Climate Council spokeswoman and climate scientist, Professor Lesley Hughes.
“The situation is dire, and our response should match that. The Reef has been severely damaged by three marine heatwaves in the past five years alone,” said Professor Hughes.
Scientists recognise that climate change is the greatest threat to the Reef. On its current trajectory, global average temperatures will increase by more than 2°C, which scientists warn no coral reefs can survive.
To stay well below 2oC and to give the Reef its best chance of survival, the Climate Council recommends Australia cut its emissions by 75 per cent by 2030 (based on 2005 levels) and reach net zero by 2035, doing its fair share of global action.
“The Australian government has stewardship of one of the world’s most precious and iconic ecosystems, but its continued support for fossil fuels and its lack of effective climate policy means it’s utterly failing to live up to that responsibility,” said Professor Hughes.
“It is important we remember that the Reef can be restored, but it needs a break from severe back-to-back bleaching events, and the only way to do that is to rapidly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions,” she said.
“Instead, the Morrison Government is making poor decisions that put the Great Barrier Reef, as well as the wildlife and the Australian communities that depend on it, further in harm’s way,” said Professor Hughes.
Nicki Hutley, Climate Council spokeswoman and economist said: “The Great Barrier Reef is an irreplaceable natural heritage treasure as well as a key pillar of the Australian economy that supports 64,000 jobs, contributes $6.4 billion to our national economy, and has an economic, social, and iconic value of $56 billion.”
“COVID-19 has been particularly savage to Australia’s tourism industry, and the government should be pulling out all the stops to support tourism livelihoods, not threatening them further,” added Ms Hutley.
“We need urgent action to give our Reef a fighting chance, starting with a rapid phase-out of all coal, oil, and gas projects,” she added.