Media Release Fight For Our Reef

Australia must lift climate targets to protect Great Barrier Reef 

February 2, 2024
  • Australian Govt must increase greenhouse gas reduction targets in line with keeping global warming to 1.5oC – a critical threshold for coral reefs 

  • Governments must end tree clearing and restore watercourses & wetlands

  • Governments submitted report to UNESCO on progress to protect Reef overnight

  • World Heritage advisory body UNESCO made 22 recommendations to protect Reef 

The Australian Government must dramatically lift its climate targets to protect the Great Barrier Reef, the Australian Marine Conservation Society said after the federal and Queensland governments submitted their report to UNESCO overnight on their progress to protect the Reef.

Last year the World Heritage advisory body UNESCO and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) made 22 recommendations to the Australian and Queensland governments to protect the Reef and avoid an ‘In Danger’ listing.

AMCS Great Barrier Reef Campaign Manager Dr Lissa Schindler said: “There has been good progress in protecting the Great Barrier Reef with the Queensland Government’s vastly improved emissions reduction target and the commercial fishing gillnet ban, but more action is needed.

“The Queensland Government has done well addressing climate change with its improved renewable energy and greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets, but the federal government needs to lift its game.

“The Australian Government must lift its greenhouse gas reduction targets in line with keeping global warming to 1.5oC – a critical threshold for coral reefs. Australia’s current emissions reduction target of 43% by 2030 is consistent with a 2°C warming pathway, which equates to the loss of 99% of the world’s coral reefs.

“Right now the states are leading the way on climate targets. If a state with a significant resource sector such as Queensland can set an emissions reduction target of 75% by 2035, then the Australian Government can and must go higher.

“If Australia is serious about fulfilling its commitment to UNESCO to set more ambitious emission reduction targets in alignment with efforts to limit global temperature increase to 1.5°C, then we would expect at least a 90% emissions reduction target by 2035.

“The Queensland and Australian governments must take that same bold approach to addressing water quality. There continues to be alarming amounts of broadscale tree clearing in Reef catchments, including along watercourses, where vegetation plays a critical role in trapping sediment that would otherwise flow into the Reef.

“The governments must protect and restore wetlands, which provide nursery habitat for a lot of the marine life in Reef waters and also trap nitrogen run-off, which has been linked to crown of thorn seastar outbreaks.

“Tree clearing has a double-whammy effect on climate change, the biggest threat to our Reef, adding to carbon pollution when trees are burned or left to rot, and removing trees that could suck carbon out of the atmosphere.

“The Reef is an internationally renowned natural marvel that supports a $6 billion tourism industry and 64,000 jobs. We need to do everything we can to protect it.”