Media Release Climate Change

Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef safe carbon budget could be blown in 12 years unless urgent action taken.

November 1, 2019

QUEENSLAND could blow its Great Barrier Reef safe carbon budget * in under 12 years unless urgent action is taken to reduce the state’s rising greenhouse gas emissions, a new report shows. 

A 1.5°C Compatible Carbon Budget for Queensland, released today by the Australian Marine Conservation Society and Climate Analytics, in a first-ever, outlines a roadmap for how Queensland can play its role in limiting global warming to 1.5ºC under the Paris Agreement and help save the Great Barrier Reef and the vital tourism industry.   

The scientific community has shown that the Great Barrier Reef is in imminent danger of massive damage and, ultimately, complete loss unless global warming is limited to 1.5C.

Report author Bill Hare, director of Climate Analytics, said: “If Queensland continues to emit carbon pollution from energy use at the same rate as in 2017, the state’s Great Barrier Reef safe carbon budget will be used up in less than 12 years, by 2031.

“As the highest carbon-emitting state in Australia and custodian of the Reef, Queensland urgently needs to get its house in order and do its bit to limit warming to 1.5ºC.  

“To ensure that Queensland’s carbon emissions stay within a carbon budget consistent with global efforts to meet the Paris Agreement limit of 1.5ºC, Queensland needs to cut energy and industrial emissions by a total of 58% by 2030 (compared to 2005 levels) and reach zero carbon emissions by 2050. 

“The good news is that there are tremendous opportunities for Queenslanders in a decarbonised economy due to its cheap and plentiful solar and other renewable energy resources, advanced industrial capabilities and existing resource industry and infrastructure.

“For Queensland to take advantage of these opportunities, and stay within the carbon budget it is of vital importance for the government to develop a whole of economy Great Barrier Reef safe strategy.”

Report Key Findings:

  • Queensland currently produces more emissions than any other Australian state or territory 
  • The Great Barrier Reef safe carbon budget for Queensland is about 1.2 billion tonnes of Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
  • If Queensland keeps emitting carbon pollution at the same rate as for 2017, this carbon* budget will be used up in less than 12 years – by 2031.
  • Reducing carbon pollution from energy, transport and industrial sources by 58% by 2030 and to zero by 2050 will keep the state within its Great Barrier Reef safe carbon budget
  • To avoid blowing its carbon budget, Queensland needs to reduce emissions across electricity (shutting coal fired power stations by 2030), transport, industry, building and energy-related agriculture** – all which requires stronger state policy and an urgent revision of emissions reduction targets


Read the full report here

Imogen Zethoven at Australian Marine Conservation Society said: “The Reef is the jewel in the crown of Queensland that supports $6billion tourism industry and 64,000 jobs, many in regional communities. Right now our Reef is in grave danger from climate change impacts like marine heatwaves, extreme weather events and ocean acidification.

“The science is blunt. If the world reaches 2°C of warming, extinction of the world’s coral reefs, including the Great Barrier Reef, is virtually guaranteed. But if we limit warming to 1.5°C, we can preserve up to 30 percent of coral reefs and give them a chance to recover over time.

“The Queensland government has made the Reef one of its six priorities in this term of government and committed to developing a Climate Transition policy. But it can’t act alone. The federal government must act now to cut climate pollution to protect the Reef.”


For comment contact AMCS Communications Manager:  Ingrid Neilson 0421 972 731