The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) says the updated Reef 2050 Plan released yesterday contains no new action to tackle the threat of climate change, despite accepting that global warming is the biggest threat to our Great Barrier Reef.
The updated plan acknowledges there is ‘a critical window of opportunity to take the actions needed to sustain the Reef’, but the plan relies on other countries to do the heavy lifting to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre industrial levels.
“As far as climate change is concerned, this is a Plan without a plan,” said Imogen Zethoven, Director of Strategy at AMCS.
“There is still a gaping climate change policy hole at a Federal level, and this urgently needs to be addressed in the Reef 2050 Plan. Currently it’s all talk and no action.
“Australia’s policies are on track for a world 3°C warmer. We know that our Reef won’t survive beyond 2°C. The Reef 2050 Plan was an opportunity to change direction, but this draft misses that opportunity. It must be corrected in the final plan – incredible Reef wildlife and tens of thousands of jobs in the tourism industry depend on it.
“To preserve our wonderful Reef for future generations, we need to cut our emissions now. We must reject any further growth of coal, oil and gas and commit to transitioning to 100% renewables over the next decade. Sadly, due to past inaction, we will keep seeing the devastating mass bleaching events that have beset our international icon in recent years, but we can reduce their severity and frequency over time if we act now.”
AMCS repeats its call on the Australian government to develop an emissions reduction target that is compatible with limiting global warming to 1.5°C and a plan to achieve it, that will create jobs in regional areas of Queensland hit hard by COVID restrictions. The organisation also calls on the Queensland government to set a far more ambitious emissions reduction target than 30% by 2030.
Ms Zethoven says the Plan contains existing measures to reduce agricultural runoff that harms inshore corals and seagrass meadows and indirectly leads to outbreaks of coral-eating Crown of Thorns starfish. She called for the Queensland government to introduce a multi-year funding package to ensure full compliance with recently introduced Reef water quality regulations.
The Plan also acknowledges that commercial fishing is a serious threat to our Reef because of the impact on commercially targeted fish stocks and endangered species.
The Plan relies on the implementation of the Queensland Sustainable Fisheries Strategy to deliver world class fisheries reform and protection for species like turtles and dugongs. However, the Strategy has so far failed to deliver conservation benefits for the Reef, with no significant progress since September 2019. The strategic actions outlined in the Plan are vague and non-committal, and will fail to deliver the fisheries reform the Reef needs for future resilience in the face of warming waters.
Ms Zethoven says AMCS will prepare a detailed submission, and encourage its 270,000 supporters to make their voices heard as well.
AMCS is a member of the Reef 2050 Advisory Committee to the Australian and Queensland environment ministers on behalf of the Queensland Conservation Council.