The Morrison government released an update on Australia’s cornerstone strategy to protect the Great Barrier Reef. This is to prevent the ocean icon from being added to a list of endangered world heritage sites.
The Environment groups stated that Reef 2050 updated planThe release of the report, which was made late Monday night without much fanfare due to the government’s inadequate plan to reduce greenhouse gas emission, fell short.
A foreword to this plan was co-signed in part by Sussan Leey, the federal environment minister, and Meaghan Scannon, Queenslands minister for Great Barrier Reef. It stated that the reef is being threatened by marine heatwaves that resulted in three major bleaching events in 2016, 2017, and 2020.
Ministers wrote: These events have combined with other major impacts on the reef have affected communities and industries that rely on it for their livelihoods, and way of living.
Scientists are worried about forecasts that large portions of the northern and central sections of the reef could bleach once again by January.
Ministers noted that the revised plan, the first major revision for five years, offers a path for accelerated action to preserve the Reefs Outstanding Universal Value. They also stated that they are committed to putting in the effort and time required to implement it.
The plan’s key advisory group Strong concernLast month, the release was delayed due to the fact that it was not available in time for the July world heritage meeting.
Guardian Australia understands that the committee was asked to make additional recommendations for actions that could be added before next year’s world heritage meeting in June in Russia.
UN science advisors had earlier this year advised that the reef should be put on the in danger list. However, a world heritage meeting in August ignored that advice.
Instead, The committee statedA UN reactive monitoring mission should take place to assess the reef and update the plan. Although it is not yet scheduled for, it is expected to take place in the first quarter of 2022.
The committee expressed concerns about the impacts of mass coral bleaching and said that there wasn’t enough progress on reducing pollution levels in the reefs waters. This is a crucial measure scientists claim will improve corals’ resistance to rising ocean temperatures.
Unesco must be notified by Australia about the state of the reef, and any plans it has before February 1, next year.
Next July will see the world heritage commission decide if the reef should be on the in-danger list. This is a possibility that the Morrison government has tried to avoid.
Richard Leck from WWF Australia’s Oceans Head stated that this new plan shows that the Australian government has failed to do everything it can to ensure the reef’s future is as safe as possible, particularly in light of climate change.
The plan prioritizes limiting climate change’s impacts by contributing to global efforts for reducing emissions. It then repeats the inadequacies of the prime minister at the recent Climate Conference in Glasgow.
The Morrison government set a goal to net zero greenhouse gases emissions by 2050. However, its plan to achieve that goal using technology investments has been heavily criticised.
According to the government’s modelling, Australia will be about 226mt less than net zero by 2050 under the technology-led plan.
Based on 2005 levels of emissions, the government claims that it is on track in cutting emissions by up to 35% before 2030. Analysts say that even if such cuts were achieved it would not be consistent with keeping global warming below 2C.
Leck stated that it was vital to keep global warming below 1.5C for the survival of the reefs.
He stated that he understood the pressures the tourism industry is facing and that he knew how passionate Australians are about the reef and the pride they take in being its custodians. This plan could jeopardize the reef’s world heritage status.
Leck said that funding was insufficient to meet targets for reducing the amount of pollution entering the waters of the reefs from the land.
Simon Miller, spokesperson for Australian Marine Conservation Society, stated: The climate crisis represents the greatest threat to our coral reef. Therefore, it is shameful that the Reef 2050 Plan does not have the ambition to address this problem.
The current plan doesn’t address the root cause of global heating by burning fossil fuels. This heats the oceans and causes coral bleaching events that have plagued only 2% of the global icon since 1998.
Miller stated that the plan made progress in tackling water pollution and illegal and nonsustainable fishing. However, these steps need to be taken faster.
Ley spokesperson said: Australia has always believed that, following a reactive operation, the World Heritage Committee would be reassured about our international scientific leadership on the reef.
The plan was based on extensive planning and scientific advice. Queensland would collaborate with the government and receive any advice regarding future enhancements to this plan.
The spokespersons stated that the threat of bleaching was being addressed. They said: We review all scientific forecasting and recognize that local weather conditions will play an important role in determining any impacts on the reefs. However, it was too early to make predictions about what might happen in the next months.
Guardian Australia has reached out to the Queensland government.