UNESCO has expressed
UNESCO has expressed "serious concern” about the bleaching death of coral on the Great Barrier Reef caused by climate change, in a report released in Paris at the UN World Heritage Committee meeting. Peter Lik

Queensland won't meet Reef protection requirements

THE Great Barrier Reef is a hot topic in Paris this morning with parties unable to agree if a draft plan to help the water world recover is enough.

UNESCO has expressed "serious concern” about the bleaching death of coral on the Great Barrier Reef caused by climate change, in a report released in Paris at the UN World Heritage Committee meeting.

The body, which advises the World Heritage Committee, says key targets in Australia's rescue plan - Reef 2050 - "are not expected to be achieved” and is urging Australia "to accelerate efforts”. 

The draft decision released in Paris overnight, "welcomes the progress made with the inception and initial implementation of the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan (2050 LTSP) and the establishment of the Investment Framework, and expresses its appreciation for the significant efforts by all those involved in the implementation of the 2050 LTSP.”

UNESCO did have some praise welcoming progress made with the inception and initial implementation of Reef 2050.

But that was countered by three main concern: the massive scale of coral bleaching and mortality in 2016 and 2017; water quality targets and excessive land clearing that contributes to pollution run-off into the reef.

UNESCO "noted that important legislation regulating land clearing has not been passed yet”.

Meanwhile,

Queensland's Minister for the Great Barrier Reef Steven Miles welcomed the committee's report and said the draft decision recognised the intensity of work being undertaken to protect this international icon.

"The Palaszczuk Government has committed $100 million over five years in extra funding for reef water quality projects to improve the health and resilience of the reef.

"We have also banned capital dredging in all but four priority ports and banned the dumping of dredge spoil the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area,” he said.

Mr Miles said the committee acknowledged the Queensland government for its progress in enforcing the reef regulations for agriculture and the successful implementation of the ports legislation.

"While we grapple with the devastating impact of coral bleaching, the global community have praised Queensland's efforts to address water quality,” Mr Miles said.

"So many people have supported our reef water quality efforts, and this decision recognizes the progress made by government, farmers, industries and ports.

"These efforts are crucial for the survival of the reef and the 69,000 jobs it supports.”

But the committee also singled out the need to enforce reef regulations and the need for land clearing reform.

"The committee makes it clear we won't meet our water quality targets without reef protection regulations and land clearing reform,” Mr Miles said.

Mr Miles said an overall report on the state of conservation of the Great Barrier Reef will be submitted to the Committee by 1 December 2019. That report will include an assessment of progress towards the targets and the effectiveness of the response to the bleaching events.

The draft decision is available at http://whc.unesco.org/en/soc/3658.

It will be considered by the World Heritage Committee at the upcoming meeting in Krakow, Poland from 2 to 12 July 2017.

WWF-Australia Head of Oceans Richard Leck said the biggest threats to the Reef were climate change, poor water quality, and excessive tree clearing which increases polluted run-off.

"On all three fronts UNESCO has concerns on progress in tackling these issues,” he said.

"Two years ago UNESCO put Australia on probation until the health of the reef improves. Clearly that probation is not going well. Since then there has been an unprecedented loss of coral.

"Today's UNESCO report shows Australia is not on course to rescue the reef and we must lift our game significantly.

"Australia must become a world leader in tackling climate change, and boost efforts to clean up pollution from reef catchments.

"The Great Barrier Reef can bounce back. However, never has more urgency and leadership been needed to make sure the reef is not lost on our watch,”

WWF is urging the Australian and Queensland Governments to:

  • Commit Australia to do its fair share in keeping global temperature rise below 1.5 C.
  • Implement strong laws in Reef catchments that clean up farm water pollution and stop excessive tree clearing
  • Transition to a 100% renewable economy by 2030
  • Rule out government support for new coal mines
  • Stop government subsidies which encourage more coal, oil and gas to be burnt.

Mr Miles said the Queensland Opposition was blocking changes to legislation for reef regulations and the need for land clearing reform.



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