The Climate Council has blasted the official response to this year’s devastating coral bleaching event on the Great Barrier Reef as not being grounded in science.
The Federal and Queensland governments today released their update to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre on the reef’s health and government actions.
But despite the reef undergoing the worst coral bleaching event in its history- in which two-thirds of corals in the northern part of the reef have died- the plan contains no new funding commitments and no new actions to tackle climate change.
Instead, the report lists existing funding commitments to tackle water quality and improvements to the management of ports and dredging.
“Funding water quality efforts on the reef while failing to do anything about climate change is a bit like fixing a window while the house is on fire,” Professor Tim Flannery said.
“Fixing the window is only worthwhile if you put the fire out. Water quality is necessary but it will only matter if climate change is tackled hard as well.”
“I, along with many other Australians, have been truly shocked and heart-broken to see what has happened to the Reef this year. This plan fails the reef and us.
“I’m not even sure you can call a plan that includes no new funding and no new actions on climate change a plan- it’s simply a re-announcement of old commitments.”
Australia’s emissions reduction targets of 26-28 per cent by 2030 on 2005 levels are far below the 45-60%% targets recommended by the Climate Change Authority to be consistent with Australia’s fair share of limiting global temperature rise to less than 2°C.
If global emissions aren’t trending down by 2020, it will all but ensure the reef will disappear.
Climate Councillor Professor Lesley Hughes said climate change was the biggest threat to the survival of the reef.
If current levels of climate change continue, the reef will be bleached every two years by the 2030s- leaving it no time to recover between events.
“Australia playing its part in the global effort to tackle climate change is critical to the long-term survival of the reef,” she said.
“Australia’s carbon pollution continues to rise and both the Queensland and Federal Governments have given the green light to a massive new coal mine in the Galilee Basin.
“Just as you can’t smoke without increasing the risk of lung cancer, you can’t keep polluting without dramatically escalating risks to the reef.”
“Put simply, if Australia does not do more and quickly, we will look back and realise that the opportunity to save the reef was lost on these Governments’ watch.”
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