UNESCO addresses failure of government to protect the Great Barrier Reef

Coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef
Contributed by Joe Montero

A recent UNESCO report has pointed to the failure of the Australian government to take adequate action to protect the Great Barrier Reef.

Note that the section on the Great Barrier Reef was removed from the official release after pressure from the Australian government. Critics have noticed that this indicates that there is something to hide, a notion that is backed up since the removed part went public.

It found that the world heritage listed reef will continue to be killed off by CO2 related bleaching, unless emissions are drastically cut to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5C above the pre-industrial level.

The report found that the Reef 2050 plan, falls far short of meeting Australia’s contribution to solving the problem. Ongoing of public funding of fossil fuel is making the situation worse.

A highlight of the failure is the $1 billion loan offered to the Adani corporation through the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF), to build a rail link that will lead to more pollution and therefore more pressure against the reef’s survival.

Along with the subsidisation of the fossil fuel industry there is a marked failure to provide comparative assistance to alternative energy sources, suggesting active discouragement coming from the government’s alliance with corporations involved in the extraction of coal, oil and gas. This is standing in the way of making a transition as soon as possible.

These corporations are also provided with $11 billion worth of tax breaks.

The editorial board of finance magazine, Bloomberg, has described this policy of the Australian government as “the world’s dumbest policy”. It makes no economic sense, except to help some mates.

As it is, the Great Barrier Reef is Australia’s greatest tourist attraction and is the major plank of Queensland’s tourist economy, and it is therefore important to the overall national economy. The destruction of the reef will be a significant blow to the economy and cause the loss of tens of thousands of jobs, given that the attraction off the reef has many links other sectors of the economy.

In contrast, fossil fuels are a dying industry and this will mean fewer returns for exports a littler way down the track. Even more ominous is the prospect of the Australian economy being locked into the antiquated fossil fuel dependency, when the rest of the world moves on to knew and carbon free technologies. An eventuality that will lock Australia into inefficiency, being uncompetitive and in economic decline.

This is certainly a dumb direction to be going in.

The great Barrier Reef also deserves to be preserved because of its own uniqueness and because it is the habitat of a massive range of species. Its death would also signal that the planet is getting into serious trouble.

Saving of the Great Barrier Reef, is also important as a milestone for saving the future of the planet and human civilisation.

In this respect, it is also a global problem. All nations have a stake in the issue and therefore have a place in ensuring that adequate action is taken, so long as it is along the lines of respecting national autonomy.

But the building crisis is so serious that it is right for it to be raised in international forums.

Ultimately though, this is a battle must be fought in Australia. This is where the outcome is going to be decisive.

A range of community and environment organisations are building a massive campaign for the protection of the reef and the ending of fossil fuel. It is winning public opinion and will grow until government is forced to change direction.











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