As the leading charity and independent voice for the Great Barrier Reef for over 50 years we wanted to address the controversy surrounding the recent government funding to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.
Our leaders too often underestimate the sheer love we Australians have for the Reef; and the standards to which we Australians – from Cairns to Kalgoorlie – will hold them in looking after it.
It is no wonder that the Australian Government is under pressure for giving $444 million to a foundation instead of one of its own government agencies. It is no wonder they are being attacked for improper process and for ducking the Reef’s biggest threat.
The outsourcing of nearly half a billion dollars of taxpayer funds to a foundation to protect the Great Barrier Reef is unusual by any measure. AMCS believes that there needs to be independent scrutiny and full transparency over how the funding is spent.
But while the media spotlight remains fixed on who got the money and how, the question that really matters is going unexamined: will this money address what the Reef really needs? The answer is no.
Funding to tackle poor water quality and coral-eating Crown of Thorns Starfish plagues is welcome, but it will be wasted unless tough action is taken to mitigate climate change – which is the single biggest threat to our Great Barrier Reef. Without getting to the root of the problem and taking strong climate change action the Turnbull Government is gambling with half a billion dollars of public money.
During the summers of 2016 and 2017, our Great Barrier Reef suffered two unprecedented and severe marine heat waves, resulting in the death of about half of all its shallow water corals. If we continue burning fossil fuels at our current rate then severe bleaching events are likely to hit the planet’s reefs annually by the middle of this century. That would spell the end of the Great Barrier Reef as we know it. The Reef is a core part of who we are as a nation. We can not let this happen.
Australia needs to move beyond thermal coal, stop Adani, stop supporting other new big mines and switch rapidly to renewable energy if our Reef is to have a future. Other developed countries are already well progressed down this path yet Australia, the custodian of this global natural wonder, has an emissions reduction target so weak that if every other country made a commensurate level of effort all the world’s reefs would die.
Our politicians should be in no doubt; the controversy around the Great Barrier Reef Foundation funding shows how much Australians care about our Reef. Yet as a nation Australia is failing to do its fair share on climate change.
Australians, and the world community, expect and demand action on climate change to protect the largest living structure on Earth and one of the world’s most biologically rich and beautiful treasures. This means we need to stop new coal mines and move rapidly to renewable energy. The question is: are our politicians capable of doing so?
Australians are watching more closely than ever before. We just want our Reef fixed.
Darren Kindleysides, CEO
Australian Marine Conservation Society