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Government's Reef report risks reawakening World Heritage Committee warnings of In-Danger listing

Fri 2 December 2016

The Australian Government's Great Barrier Reef progress report to the World Heritage Committee, released today, acknowledges that climate change is the biggest single threat to the Reef but has nothing more to say about it. 

Australian Marine Conservation Society's Great Barrier Reef campaign director, Imogen Zethoven, said: "While the report outlines progress on most of the 151 commitments made to the World Heritage Committee to keep the Reef off the In Danger list, there isn’t a single new commitment to tackle global warming.

"The Reef has just suffered the worst coral bleaching event on record, with 67% of corals in inshore and midshelf reefs in the northern section dying due to a massive underwater heatwave. Scientists warn that another severe bleaching event is likely to happen before the Reef can recover.

“It is deeply ironic that this Report is released today, when on Tuesday next week, Premier Palaszczuk is meeting Gautam Adani next Tuesday right next to the Reef – in Townsville – to push ahead with one of the largest coal mines in the world.

“While government action on water quality is finally starting to pick up, the Australian and Queensland governments do not pass the credibility test with the public unless they introduce a comprehensive plan to tackle climate change.

“That plan must stop all new coal mines including Adani’s Carmichael mine, ensure an orderly transition to 100% renewable energy and a closure of coal fired power stations by 2035 and end massive subsidies to the fossil fuel sector.

"There must be no more industrial port expansions along the Reef coastline, threatening inshore dolphins, turtles and dugongs, to export coral-killing coal.

“Unless the Australian and Queensland governments can demonstrate they are seriously tackling climate change, the risk of the Reef being placed on the World Heritage In Danger list remains a real possibility in the future,” Ms Zethoven said.

AMCS welcomed other aspects of the report: the Queensland government’s intent to introduce tree clearing controls when it has majority support in Parliament, and the federal government’s intent to use federal laws to curb tree clearing in the Reef catchment.

“The Queensland government is planning to introduce fertiliser controls to cut back nitrogen runoff from the cane industry, whose environmental performance on the ground continues to be very poor, with 40% of cane farmers not complying with the law.

“However, all of this progress will count for nothing in the end unless we make the transition to renewable energy and say no to Adani’s Reef-destroying mine,” Ms Zethoven said.  

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