By Nick Doyle
The Morrison government (Federal Australian Government) has recently announced that they will pledge $1 billion for conservation efforts on the Great Barrier Reef over the next decade if they are re-elected.
However, the conservation package neglects to combat climate change to improve the quality of the reef. Instead it includes over $579 million to reduce land erosion and pesticide runoff; over $252 million to combat Crown of Thorns starfish and illegal fishing; and over $167 million for research, citizen science and community-led programs.
This announcement also comes after the government is due to report on the reef’s condition and the steps they have taken to protect it after they successfully lobbied UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee to not list the reef as “in danger” last year.
This was a move which drew criticism from environmental organisations and scientists alike.
The government has now come under fire for failing to address the impact that climate change will have on the reef by NOT adjusting their emissions reduction targets as part of their plan.
The reef has endured five mass coral bleaching events since 1998, with three bleachings occurring since 2016 alone.
The cause of the bleachings is due to rising ocean temperatures brought on by climate change.
The Australian Marine Conservation Society said in a statement that the reef is currently on “high alert” for another major bleaching event due to La Niña, and called on the government to “drastically increase their climate ambition”.
“We urge the government and opposition to commit to emissions reduction targets that are compatible with no more than 1.5 degrees of warming – a critical threshold for our reef. Their current 2030 targets will ensure 1.5 degrees is overshot. For the sake of the reef…it is imperative the Coalition and Labor accelerate their plans to cut emissions in this crucial decade.”
Speaking to the ABC, marine biologist Jodie Rummer said Australia was not doing enough to address climate change and that we were now “barreling towards” two degrees of warming.
“We need to be putting resources and money – $1 billion – towards net zero by 2035 and to reducing our emissions by 75 per cent in this decade,” Dr Rummer said.
The Coalition currently has a 2030 target of a 26-28% emissions cut from 2005 levels. However, according to the latest IPCC report, global emissions need to decline by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, while emissions must peak by 2025 to limit global warming to 1.5°C.
Australia’s current climate policies are simply not enough, with the Climate Action Tracker rating our climate policies and action as “highly insufficient”.
The fact of the matter remains that as long as Australia continues to support the fossil fuel industry, the reef will face more mass bleaching events, and ultimately its demise.
And in Western Australia, marine life is facing the threat of Woodside’s proposed Scarborough gas project.
To learn more about this damaging project and what you can do to help prevent it, please go to the page below.