Letter to the Federal Government to close the climate gap on our nature laws

01.05.24 By

A group of leading marine scientists have written to Prime Minister Albanese with an urgent plea to heed the science and reject new coal and gas projects for the sake of the world’s coral reefs. 

The letter, signed by 14 international and Australian marine and climate scientists – including IPCC authors – draws attention to the most severe bleaching event in recorded history currently unfolding on the Great Barrier Reef.

The scientists have rallied to make clear to the Prime Minister the severity of reef bleaching and have urged him to ensure Australia’s new, improved, national nature protection laws are passed before the end of this term of government.

To:  The Hon Anthony Albanese MP

       Prime Minister

CC: The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP, Minister for the Environment and Water

Dear Prime Minister,

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is in grave danger due to repeated severe bleaching events driven by climate pollution, with not enough time to recover in the gaps between events.

This is the worst heat stress event for the Great Barrier Reef on record, which is undergoing widespread and severe bleaching as a result. 

This is the fifth mass bleaching event in nine years. Previous mass bleaching events on the Great Barrier Reef occurred in 1998, 2002, 2016, 2017, 2020, and 2022. All were due to unprecedented heat stress caused by climate change. 

Since the last mass bleaching in 2022, at least five coal and gas projects have been approved by the Labor Government under Australia’s outdated national environment law: the EPBC Act.

Unfortunately, instead of the progress we were promised when the overhaul of this Act was announced, we now have no clear timeline of when this will occur. 

Australia’s new national nature protection laws must be delivered before the end of this term. And they must include a clear requirement to assess whether projects will cause more climate harm for nature as part of the assessment process. Given the damage climate change does to nature, it would be reckless to do otherwise.

There is strong scientific, community and parliamentary support for the Albanese government to thoroughly embed climate change considerations into the new laws.

Australia is the world’s third largest fossil fuel exporter. Climate change is global, so no matter where in the world Australia’s coal and gas exports are burnt, they damage nature here at home, which is precisely why our nature laws must consider potential climate impacts, including direct and downstream pollution.

Australians understand the Great Barrier Reef is irreplaceable and want to protect it so all generations can experience its wonder and beauty. 

We urge the government to heed the science, listen to the Australian community and commit to working with the Parliament to close the climate gap in our national nature laws.


Header image Credit: Harriet Spark