Media Release Climate Change

If Great Barrier Reef crisis is a win, what does losing look like to Australia’s Environment Minister?

July 6, 2017

The Great Barrier Reef has again narrowly avoided an ‘in danger’ listing at the World Heritage Committee in Poland overnight.

Australia’s Environment Minister has described the decision as “a big win for Australia and a big win for the Turnbull Government”, although nothing could be further from the truth.

Dr Lissa Schindler from the Australian Marine Conservation Society asked, “What sort of a government celebrates the loss of half of the corals on our World Heritage Great Barrier Reef, and calls that a win?

“Half of the corals in our Great Barrier Reef have died in the last two years from unprecedented severe mass coral bleaching. Many scientists believe it will never be the same again.

“Despite what the government is saying, the Reef remains on the watch list for an in danger listing. The committee expressed its concern with the slow progress on some aspects of the Reef 2050 Plan and noted its failure to address climate change – the greatest threat to our coral reefs.

“Climate change, driven mainly by the burning of fossil fuels such as coal and gas, is the single biggest threat to our Great Barrier Reef and all the world’s coral reefs.

“The Committee has ‘noted with serious concern’ the coral bleaching and mortality that occurred in 2016 and 2017 and is expected to hand down a decision on Monday expressing utmost concern about serious impacts from coral bleaching on World Heritage Coral Reefs, and to emphasise the dire need for State Parties to meet their commitments under the Paris Agreement.

“If all countries make the same level of effort as Australia in reducing emissions, global temperature will rise by 3 to 4 degrees by the end of the century. This would kill all the reef corals worldwide.

“Our government should be ashamed. It should be doing everything in its power to address this national disaster, but is instead fast-tracking one of the world’s largest coal mines and propping up dirty old fossil fuels. The world’s nations are embracing the clean energy economy and moving rapidly towards a renewable energy future,” Dr Schindler said.

Australia has abundant clean cheap renewable energy sources. We must invest in a rapid transition to renewables to preserve our precious Great Barrier Reef and the 64,000 tourism jobs that depend on it.


For the full UNESCO decision (bottom of the page to Draft Decision: 41 COM 7B.24)

For the draft decision on climate change and the world’s coral reefs (Page 26, items 18-24)

Dr Lissa Schindler is available for interviews today.

For interviews and more information contact:

Ingrid Neilson, AMCS Communications Manager 0421 972 731 [email protected]

Shane Cucow, AMCS Communications Officer 0423 544 979 [email protected]

Great Barrier Reef Campaign Director Imogen Zethoven, AO is in Poland at the World Heritage Committee alongside global coral expert Dr Charlie Vernon. Ms Zethoven and Dr Vernon are also available for interviews.