Media Release Climate Change

Labor’s climate plan a step forward but more ambition needed

April 1, 2019

Labor’s climate change policy is a clear improvement on Australia’s woeful record on emissions, but falls short of the level of ambition needed to protect the future of the Great Barrier Reef and safeguard the nation’s $31 billion marine tourism industry, the country’s peak marine conservation group Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) says.

Responding to Labor’s policy announcement, Imogen Zethoven, AMCS strategic director, said: “Labor’s announcement is clearly a big improvement, but we are so far behind due to many years of policy failure that we need to make giant leaps forward.

“We really do need a higher level of ambition.  We are asking all parties to commit to an emissions reduction target of 65 to 85 percent, and a renewable energy target of 100 percent by 2030. There’s a critical threshold for the Reef – it’s 1.5C. The ambition we are calling for would see Australia making a fair contribution to that vital goal.”

Zethoven said when analysts look at the action being taken by developed countries around the world, Australia has been consistently ranked close to last.

She said: “That means we have an awful lot of catching up to do.”

The Great Barrier Reef is highly vulnerable to climate change, with rapidly warming ocean waters driven by burning fossil fuels causing unprecedented coral bleaching.

AMCS welcomes Labor’s policy to drive a transition towards electric vehicles, as well as Labor’s promise not to use carry-over Kyoto emissions credits – a move that ensures future cuts are driven by action, rather than by an accounting anomaly.

“However, Labor’s plan does not yet tackle Australia’s major contribution to climate change – the coal and other fossil fuels that we dig up and export. Currently, Australia exports about 44t of CO2 per person – that’s almost double our domestic per capita emissions.

“Failing to address our fossil fuel exports means any emissions cuts – backed by any political party – are easily cancelled out. The next Federal government must step up its level of ambition to address coal exports. We have to give the Reef a fighting chance.”

Warming ocean waters killed half of the Reef’s shallow water corals in 2016 and 2017 and scientific studies show the Reef is recovering very slowly.

“The Reef is a World Heritage icon and home to an extraordinary range of species, but in 2017, the World Heritage Committee expressed grave concern about the impact of climate change on reefs.

“As the world’s largest exporter of coal, Australia has a global responsibility to ensure no new thermal coal mines are opened – not just the Adani mine in the Galilee coal basin.”

“For the sake of the Great Barrier Reef, its amazing wildlife and the 64,000 jobs that are dependent on a healthy Reef, we need all parties to make Australia a leader, not a laggard.”


AMCS media adviser Graham Readfearn 0406 241 081.

Notes for editors

*The Australian Institute of Marine Science Index of Marine Industry report says Australia’s marine tourism sector is worth $31 billion to the country’s economy. Source:

*Australia’s per capita fossil fuel export emissions were analysed by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network. Source: