Media Release Fight For Our Reef

Australia has outsized impact on climate & global coral bleaching

April 16, 2024
  • Australia is exporting climate change to the world – we are the world’s third biggest exporter of fossil fuels
  • Australia has much to lose to coral bleaching – Great Barrier Reef is world’s biggest coral reef system, supporting a $6.4 billion industry and 64,000 jobs  
  • Australia needs to stop approving new fossil fuel projects

Australia must do more to battle climate change if we are to save the Great Barrier Reef, the Australian Marine Conservation Society said after the US Government’s world-leading ocean agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), declared the world’s fourth global coral bleaching event.

AMCS Great Barrier Reef Campaign Manager Dr Lissa Schindler said: “The Australian Government can’t say we’re doing our bit to battle climate change and protecting the Great Barrier Reef when we are the third biggest exporter of what is causing the unprecedented marine heatwaves that are bleaching coral reefs around the world – fossil fuels.

“This is the fifth mass bleaching event the Great Barrier Reef has experienced in eight years. This is one of the most extensive and severe bleaching events to hit our Great Barrier Reef. For the first time, extreme bleaching – where more than 90% of a reef’s coral cover is bleached – has been observed in all three regions of the Great Barrier Reef.

“We know coral reefs can recover from bleaching, we have seen it since the devastating bleaching event in 2016, but climate change is driving more frequent and severe events, meaning reefs aren’t being given the chance to recover.

“Coral bleaching may be happening all around the world, but there is so much more Australia can do, and we have so much to lose. The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s biggest coral reef system, home to thousands of species and powering a $6.4 billion tourism industry and supporting 64,000 jobs.

“Australia is responsible for 5% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions if we take into account for our fossil fuel exports. Australia is the world’s third largest fossil fuel exporter, behind just Russia and Saudi Arabia. We are one of the world’s largest coal and gas exporters. Australia is exporting climate change to the world. Our governments need to stop approving new fossil fuel projects.

“Australia doesn’t need to rely on fossil fuels for our economic prosperity. We can tackle climate change and become an economic powerhouse by using our abundant renewable energy, resources and technical knowledge to reboot Australia’s manufacturing industry to take advantage of the rapidly approaching net-zero economy.

“The Australian Government must lift its emissions reduction targets in line with keeping global warming to 1.5oC – a critical threshold for coral reefs – and stop approving new fossil fuel projects. Our national environment law is being updated, and new Nature Positive laws must stop more climate pollution.

“The Queensland Government has shown leadership with its commitment to cut climate pollution by 75% over the next decade, and it’s time for the state’s Liberal National Party to show Queenslanders that protecting the Reef has bipartisan support. Very soon these targets will be voted on in parliament and we are calling on the LNP to vote yes and show us a plan of how to implement them.”