Media Release Climate Change

COP26: Still hope for the Reef but time is running out

November 14, 2021

The final declaration from the COP26 conference gives some hope for our oceans and reefs but in the race to limit warming to 1.5C, Australia needs to get a move on, the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) says.

Darren Kindleysides, CEO of AMCS said although COP26 won’t be remembered as the summit that delivered a safe climate, significant progress was made and there is now momentum and a renewed sense of urgency for the action needed. To the shame of Australians however, it will also be remembered as the summit where our government firmly cemented its status as a climate laggard.

“There is now agreement on the urgent need to slash emissions by 45% by 2030, but Australia was not one of the 140 countries that lifted its 2030 target,” said Mr Kindleysides.

“As custodians of the Reef, Australia must take more responsibility on the global stage to tackle the climate crisis. We still don’t have the commitments needed to limit warming to 1.5C – recognised as a critical threshold for coral reefs around the world. Indeed, our government’s net zero modelling released on Friday locks in warming of 2C which scientists say could devastate our Reef.

“The majority of Australians would support the government phasing out fossil fuel mining – we want cheap, clean and safe electricity, and we’re putting our money where our mouths are by supporting the booming renewable energy industry.

“Its failure to sign commitments at COP to slash methane pollution, to lift its 2030 climate reduction targets, and continuing to back coal as other countries have committed to phasing it out, is astonishing when you consider how much we have to lose.

“Australia is getting left behind to the detriment of our economy, our people, our environment and our Reef. It is a failure of Australian politics that we are even in a position where the future of the Reef and the jobs it supports might be sacrificed for the fossil fuel industry.

“But, with an election looming, next year’s COP27 deadline for countries to come back with proper 2030 targets piles the pressure on the government and the opposition to commit to slashing emissions by 2030.

“Australia must go further faster and voters expect our government to at least match the ambition of our allies – the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, the EU and others.

“Australia’s current lack of climate ambition could also be critical when the World Heritage Committee meets in eight months to assess whether to add the Reef to the list of World Heritage sites in danger. When the Committee met earlier this year, the Australian government claimed it was managing threats to the Reef sufficiently. But on the world stage at COP26, our government has been exposed for failing to act more strongly on the climate crisis, the Reef’s biggest threat. This will not go unnoticed by the World Heritage Committee.”