A Band-Aid on a broken leg: Reef cash useless without deep emissions cuts this decade

28.01.22 By
This content is more than 2 years old

WITH AN ELECTION and UNESCO’s ruling on the Great Barrier Reef looming, the Federal Government has announced $1 billion for the Reef, which the Climate Council has labelled as more “golden Band-Aid” spending. 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is set to announce $1 billion will go towards improving water quality, reef management and research for the Great Barrier Reef today in Cairns. 

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has warned that the Reef is dangerously close to experiencing another mass bleach event, which would be an unprecedented and catastrophic fourth in six years.

Climate Councillor, climate scientist and Distinguished Professor of Biology at Macquarie University, Professor Lesley Hughes said: 

“Unless you are cutting emissions deeply this decade the situation on the Reef will only get worse. This is essentially like using a bunch of Band-Aids to try and mend a broken leg.” 

“Any additional funding for the environment in Australia is welcome, as it is severely under-resourced. However, handing out cash for the Great Barrier Reef with one hand, while funding the very industry – fossil fuels – that’s driving devastating climate impacts like marine heatwaves and coral bleaching, means they are adding to the very problem they are claiming they want to fix.”  

“Only a month ago we saw the greenlight given to the Morrison Government’s polluting, unnecessary, taxpayer funded pet project – the Kurri Kurri gas power station.

“I have been working as an ecologist and watching the Great Barrier Reef decline for 30 years now. How many more times do we need to say it? Climate change is the number one threat to the Great Barrier Reef and coral reefs globally. The only way to protect the Reef from this threat is to move rapidly away from fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas.” 

Scientists recognise that climate change is the greatest threat to the Reef. The Federal Government’s woefully inadequate 2030 target of 26-28% reduction in emissions, if adopted globally, would lead to up to 4°C warming, which scientists warn no coral reefs can survive.

“The Morrison Government wants to convince UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee that the Reef is not “In Danger”, even though it clearly is. This cash helps the Morrison Government look good on this issue, but we are not seeing the concrete steps that would give us confidence that they are serious about protecting the Reef.” 

Last year, successful political lobbyings saw the Reef narrowly dodge being placed on UNESCOs ‘In Danger’ list.

“How much longer must the Reef – one of the world’s most iconic and significant ecosystems – suffer at the hands of this Federal Government’s climate failings?” 

For interviews please contact Brianna Hudson on 0455 238 875 or Jane Gardner on 0438 130 905. 

The Climate Council is Australia’s leading community-funded climate change communications organisation. We provide authoritative, expert and evidence-based advice on climate change to journalists, policymakers, and the wider Australian community.

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