Blog Climate Change

UN had no choice but to label the reef ‘in danger’

July 1, 2021

By retired Great Barrier Reef tourism operator Tony Fontes

As a retired tourism operator who worked in the Whitsundays for 40 years, I can tell you the Great Barrier Reef and the tourism industry in Queensland is crying out for climate action.

Environment Minister Sussan Ley writes in The Australian that climate change is the biggest threat to the Great Barrier Reef and urges the world to take climate action. Fair enough, but what is Team Australia doing on climate? Nowhere near enough.

The Australian government needs to take responsibility as custodians of the GBR and reduce emissions in line with our fair share to limit global warming to 1.5C – a level that means we’ll at least save some of our natural world wonder. How can we expect the world to act on climate change with the scale and urgency required to protect the reef if we’re not prepared to?

Australia’s climate record is more consistent with a 2.5-3.0C rise in global average temperature – a level that would destroy the GBR and all coral reefs.

Ley’s claim that the reef is being politicised is a little rich coming from a government that is now using its full political power and resources to lobby member countries of the World Heritage Committee not to back an “in danger” listing.

Even though they don’t like it, the draft decision is a technical, objective evaluation of the reef, based on Australian government reports and the best available science collated across many years. With three mass bleachings across the past five years and water quality targets not being met, it was clear UNESCO had no choice but to recommend the reef for in danger listing.

A version of this letter was published in The Australian in response to an opinion piece on the ‘in danger’ recommendation by Environment Minister Sussan Ley