World Environment Community Health Animals Celebrity Submit A Site Find A Charity
'We can't be passive bystanders': Advisers call for dramatic re-think on Great Barrier Reef

By Adam Morton, smh.com.au

601 days ago   Article ID# 4176744
Original URL


SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA (smh.com.au) - A handpicked expert panel advising the federal government on its plan to protect the ailing Great Barrier Reef has warned the strategy does not address the greatest threat facing the natural wonder – greenhouse gas emissions – and has called for a significant overhaul.

The call to re-draw the Reef 2050 Plan follows an unprecedented second straight year of mass coral bleaching linked to rising water temperatures.

It comes as the World Heritage Committee is expected to consider Australia's progress in dealing with the threats facing the reef later this year. Released in March 2015, the plan was a response to concerns the committee would describe the reef's world heritage listing as "in danger", mainly due to development and farming practices along the Queensland coast.

But in a communique dated May 5, the Independent Expert Panel advising the government on the implementation of the plan says "action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions must be central to the response".

"Members agree that in our lifetime and on our watch, substantial areas of the Great Barrier Reef and the surrounding ecosystems are experiencing major long-term damage which may be irreversible unless action is taken now," it says.

"The planet has changed in a way that science informs us is unprecedented in human history. While that in itself may be cause for action, the extraordinary rapidity of the change we now observe makes action even more urgent."

Panel chairman Professor Ian Chubb, a former national chief scientist and Australian National University vice-chancellor, told Fairfax Media the plan included important steps, but needed to be revised after consecutive summers of coral bleaching.

Scientists estimate two-thirds of the reef's shallow-water coral north of Cairns died last year, and two-thirds in the middle section between Cairns and Townsville have died this year. The total mortality along the length of the reef is believed to be nearly half.

The panel, mostly scientists, wants the plan revised to include steps to cut emissions and help the reef adapt to climate change already being felt.

Professor Chubb said Australia should be playing a leading role in pushing for an international response that could limit global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees. That push should be tied to the need to preserve Australia's internationally renowned ecological landmark.

"We can't be passive bystanders in this. We're the custodians of the reef and its ecosystem for the world," he said.

"We don't say toss out the plan and start from scratch – action on water quality, sediment and fertiliser remain important – but events mean it needs to be shifted."

In an update on the plan sent to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre in December, the federal Coalition and Queensland Labor governments noted the severity of the 2016 bleaching, and that climate change was the biggest threat facing reefs everywhere, but they said Australia was acting on global warming through the United Nations talks that led to the Paris climate deal. The 2050 plan was focused on reducing local pressures, in part to help build resilience to climate change.

A spokesman for Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg said the federal and state governments were investing $2 billion as part of the reef plan, and the Commonwealth had committed a further $1 billion to clean energy projects along the reef that both tackled climate change and improved water quality.

He said the government had ratified the Paris agreement and committed to cut emissions by 26-28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. "This is one of the highest targets on a per capita basis in the G20," he said.

Greenhouse accounts released in December showed the government was on track to meet its target of at least a 5 per cent cut by 2020, but national emissions were now increasing. It is reviewing its climate change policies this year.

The call for a change of tack comes as both the Commonwealth and state are backing a proposal by Indian company Adani to develop a mine in the Galilee Basin that could lead to 25 million tonnes of coal being exported each year, and open the area up to further coal mines.

Australian Marine Conservation Society campaign director Imogen Zethoven said Australia should be cutting emissions by between 65 and 85 per cent by 2030 to play its part in protecting the reef.

She praised the expert panel for "speaking truth to power", and took issue with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who last week took 75 foreign ambassadors snorkelling on the reef near Cairns to outline what the state and federal governments were doing to preserve it. The World Heritage Committee is expected to discuss Australia's progress in protecting the reef in Poland in July.

Ms Zethoven said if all countries had emissions targets equivalent to Australia it would result in 3-to-4 degrees of warming. "That would burn every coral reef in the world," she said.

Copyright 2019 smh.com.au   (Copyright Terms)
Updated 601 days ago   Article ID# 4176744


View All Actions >>

<< Return To Environment News

Action Center

Climate change will bring more and more heat waves

Action: Climate Change

The heat in Malaysia often feels next to unbearable. For days on end, the sun is scorching and the heat is sweltering. That, ...

End Phosphate Mining in Manatee County

Action: Wildlife Conservation

The expansion of phosphate mining in Manatee County would threaten freshwater resources in the Myakka and Peace River watersh ...

Amazon basin deforestation could disrupt distant rainforest by remote climate connection

Action: Stop Deforestation

The ongoing deforestation around the fringes of the Amazon may have serious consequences for the untouched deeper parts of th ...

Stop coal mining assault on this roadless forest

Action: Stop Pollution

President Trump has been clear since day one that he’s turning over the nation’s public lands and environment to King Coa ...

Defend our wildlife from the search for Atlantic oil

Action: Save Our Oceans

From Maine to Florida, people along the East Coast strongly oppose offshore oil and gas drilling in the Atlantic Ocean -- yet ...

View All Actions >>





Follow Us


Find A Charity

Action Center




Twitter Support



Add A Site




Privacy Policy






Terms of Service

Copyright The Charity Vault All rights reserved.