PROPOSED changes to Queensland minerals laws to block coal mining in the Galilee Basin need to go further to safeguard a Great Barrier Reef already hit hard by climate change, the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) told a public hearing on Monday.
Dr Lissa Schindler, AMCS Great Barrier Reef campaign manager, told the Queensland hearing the conservation group “strongly supports” the proposed changes to the state’s Mineral Resources Act 1989.
But Schindler said the changes should go further by blocking any new thermal coal mines in the state, not just those proposed for the Galilee Basin.
“If we want a future with the Great Barrier Reef and if we want to protect the sustainable $6 billion tourism industry that goes with it, then the state can no longer approve and support the development of new thermal coal mines,” she said.
At the hearing, Schindler outlined the impacts of warming oceans and marine heatwaves on the reef in 2016 and 2017 that saw back-to-back mass coral bleach events for the first time on record.
Burning of coal for electricity around the globe is a major driver of rapid rises in ocean temperatures around the globe.
Schindler said: “Those bleaching events are an emergency alarm being sounded by the reef. If we ignore this alarm and continue on the pathway we are on then the Great Barrier Reef will be one of the first huge casualties of climate change.
“We are at a crossroads and the state can no longer continue with business as usual.”
Schindler, who said Queensland had a duty of care as a custodian of a natural global icon, was appearing before the State Development, Natural Resources and Agricultural Industry Development Committee.
That committee held a public hearing in parliament on Monday 4 March 2019 to consider amendments to the Mineral Resources Act. The amendments are proposed by Queensland Greens MP Michael Berkman.
Schindler added: “Although we have lost 50 per cent of the corals in the reef, 50 per cent still remain. We still have plenty of good coral cover remaining in the Great Barrier Reef and we still have a vibrant $6 billion Reef tourism industry.
“We still do have a Great Barrier Reef and it is worth protecting and it is worth fighting for and it is worth doing everything we can to securing the future of the remaining corals of the Great Barrier Reef. But we are running out of time.”
Story Source: Australian Marine Conservation Society