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Australia pledges millions to keep Great Barrier Reef on the heritage list

Australia pledges millions to keep Great Barrier Reef on the heritage list

Scott Morrison, the Australian Prime Minister, stated Friday that his government would invest AUS$1Billion (US$ 700 Million) in a nine-year plan for protecting the Great Barrier Reef.

Coral reefs are a valuable ecosystem and tourist attraction. However, the reef is in decline due to climate change and pollution.

The UN’s international heritage agency UNESCO threatened to reduce the natural feature to its “in-disease” list last year. The Australian government protested, but the government was unable to stop the threat.

Morrison stated on Friday that he was supporting the health and economic future of Queensland tourism operators, hospitality suppliers, and communities that are at core of the reef economy. He also said that the investment would help to protect approximately 64,000 jobs.

Morrison on the campaign trail

For Morrison’s centre-right Liberal Party, Queensland will be a key battleground in the upcoming elections. These are expected to take place during May.

Many Australians are now supportive of policies to limit climate change after a series extreme weather events, including droughts and flooding that decimated Australia.

The Lowy Institute in Sydney conducted a poll in 2021 and found that 60% of respondents believed that “global warming” was a serious problem.

Some 80% also support net-zero emissions by 2020 target, which was set by the government reluctantly before the G20 summit.

However, Australia’s economy relies heavily on fossil fuels. It is the largest exporter of coal and natural gas in the world.

What about carbon emissions?

The Great Barrier Reef has been close to being placed on the “in danger” list in the past. UNESCO faced a similar threat in 2015. In 2015, the Australian government created the “Reef 2050” project. They also poured billions into it.

Experts believe that it had some effect but 98% of the reef was already affected by bleaching since 1998.

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Morrison has pledged to raise money for water quality and monitoring ecosystems. Critics have raised concerns over the inaction on carbon emissions.

Climate Council, an Australian environmental pressure group, criticized the government’s proposal. They said it was like putting a band-aid on a broken leg.

“Unless you reduce emissions deeply this decade, the situation in the reef will only worsen,” Lesley Hughes of the Council, a Macquarie University professor, said.

“Handing cash for the Great Barrier Reef with one handed, while funding the exact industry fossil fuels driving devastating climate impacts such as marine heatwaves, coral bleaching, and sea-level rise, means they are adding more to the problem they claim they want to fix,” she said.

ab/aw (AFP, Reuters)

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