Today, the federal government is due Report back to UNESCOIts efforts to protect the Great Barrier Reef. The government’s Announcement last week of A$1 billion of additional funding is welcome, but it will do little to allay UNESCO’s concerns.
Climate change is a major concern Number one threatThe Great Barrier Reef. The new funding is intended to address other threats that the natural wonder faces and may improve its resilience. ResilienceFailing to address climate change is both disappointing as well as nonsensical.
The Great Barrier Reef Close. last year to being put on a list of World Heritage “in danger” sites. The funding announcement seems primarily to appease UNESCO with one eye also on upcoming federal elections. But saving the Great Barrier Reef is not about throwing money at it – what matters is how the dollars are spent.
By the numbers
The government’s $1 billion package includes:
58% to address land-based water quality issues that impact the World Heritage Area
26% to reduce crown of-thorns starfish, and prevent illegal fishing
9% for the development of scientific technologies
All measures must be funded. But they’re nowhere near as important as addressing the root cause of climate change: greenhouse gas emissions. The $1 billion should have been used to assist Australia in phasing out fossil fuels.
What’s more, the federalAnd QueenslandNew coal and gas projects are still being approved by governments. This, while knowing the serious threat climate change poses for the Great Barrier Reef, is a sign of the incoherence within government policies.
Detail is the Devil
The details of the funding package are not as impressive and detailed as they appear.
The $1 billion funding was allocated over nine years. Given the four-year election cycle, this is much more than any government can commit to. It is urgent that major funding increases are made, and they should be done within a single term.
Also, federal Labor’s Proposal for fundingFor the Great Barrier Reef, it is essential to increase its population.
Another concern is funding allocations for new scientific technologies, such as coral seeding and the development of heat-resistant corals. While some of these technologies might have had positive results on a limited scale, others could have had more significant impacts. None of these technologies have produced positive results on a small scale. Yet, it was possibleAt the large scale required to make a real impact on the Great Barrier Reef
Efforts to address water qualityThese are crucial. Poor water quality is the greatest threat to the reef’s health, following climate change. It’s largely caused by nutrients, pesticides and sediment runoff from agriculture and coastal development.
But the government has already spent hundreds of million trying to improve water quality. Only limited success. Reduce water pollution requires more efficient spending than just more funds.
This is just one example of how money alone cannot fix all the Great Barrier Reef’s problems. Water quality improvement requires a balance between voluntary industry-led efforts and enforced rules.
Queensland’s government must increase its effectiveness. Compliance and enforcementConcerning fertiliser runoff into creeks that flow to reefs, Many farmers do the right thing, but others are clearly not.
To improve water quality, governments should be prepared to limit agriculture expansion and clearing in areas that support reef catchment.
Learn from our mistakes
For YearsThe federal government knows the Great Barrier Reef is under pressure. But it continues to maintain a “business as usual” attitude in the face of the worsening climate crisis. Governments worldwide must dramatically increase their climate ambitions – and for the Great Barrier Reef, this action should start at home.
The government must also better allocate funds to achieve effective and timely “adaptive management”. This means that decisions can be adjusted as the outcomes are better understood.
Such management should include considering both the good and bad outcomes of reef interventions to date – both those controlled by government agencies and those managed by external groups such as the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.
The latest government funding boost was welcome, but it’s suspiciously timed. Environmental policy and budget allocations should not be about a government’s reputation and firming up its electoral prospects – especially when so much is at stake.
UNESCO is likely welcome additional efforts to improve water quality. It has also specifically addressed the issue of water quality. We urge you to Australia to take “accelerated action at all possible levels” to address the climate threat. It remains to be seen if UNESCO will continue to exert pressure on the federal government.
One key question remains amid all this. Will Australians elect a federal government that supports environmental industries as the Great Barrier Reef continues its decline?
One thing is certain, the Australian people and their Great Barrier Reef deserve more.