Renewables focus in budget is a good start for our Reef

The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) has welcomed the Queensland government’s budget drive towards a renewable energy future as heartening news for our Great Barrier Reef.

Treasurer Cameron Dick announced that $645 million would be allocated to clean energy and three Renewable Energy Corridors in the sunshine state.

“The biggest threat facing our Reef is climate change driven by the burning of fossil fuels.The Queensland government is taking a positive step towards reducing these emissions, while supporting jobs growth in regional Queensland with the creation of these Corridors,” said AMCS Great Barrier Reef campaign manager Dr Lissa Schindler.

“We are also pleased to see the Queensland government begin funding its promised Climate Action Plan, which will set out how the state will meet its targets on lowering greenhouse gas emissions up to 2030. We will be pushing the Queensland government to commit to the action needed to limit warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius as part of this plan.

“Global heating drives the devastating mass coral bleaching events that have beset our Reef in recent years. Protecting this world icon through climate action is also good news for Queensland’s huge tourism industry, which has been so impacted in 2020 by Covid-19 restrictions.”

Dr Schindler said AMCS is looking forward to working with the Queensland government to ensure more funding for addressing poor water quality in the Great Barrier Reef is included in the next budget in mid 2021.

“Improving the quality of water flowing into our Reef is essential for the regional economy of Northern Queensland, and farmers need support to implement best practices that will benefit their businesses and our World Heritage-listed Reef,” she said.

“There are tourism business owners and workers who are relying on the good health of our Reef for their livelihoods. Improving water quality has been earmarked by scientists and politicians as an essential way of helping our Reef, alongside action on climate change.

“The World Heritage Committee will meet next year to discuss whether our Reef should be listed as ‘in danger’ due to the impact of threats like water quality and the devastating mass coral bleaching events which are driven by global warming.

“An ‘in danger’ listing for our world icon would be damaging to our beleaguered tourism industry which is only just beginning to recover from Covid-19 restrictions, as well as hugely embarrassing to the Queensland and Australian governments.”

AMCS will also be encouraging the Queensland government to invest in creating sustainable fisheries in the next budget, to support the continued delivery of the Sustainable Fisheries Strategy 2017-27 and the commercial fishing industry.

Simon Miller, AMCS fisheries spokesperson said: “We would like to see funds committed to commercial fishing license buybacks that prioritise the purchase of gillnet licences on the Reef. This fishing method indiscriminately kills our iconic marine wildlife like dugongs, sawfish, turtles and dolphins and has no place in our Reef.

“To improve public confidence in Queensland’s commercial fishing industry, we also want the government to introduce and fund electronic monitoring – cameras on boats – for the high risk net and trawl fisheries. This will provide accurate data on what is being caught, providing the public with accurate information on the true sustainability of these operations.

“We look forward to working with fisheries minister Mark Furner to ensure these provisions are included in the 2021 Queensland budget to help fishers retain access to domestic and international markets and support Queensland’s economic recovery.”

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