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Australia pledges $700 million to protect the Great Barrier Reef from the threat of climate change

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Australia pledges $700 million to protect the Great Barrier Reef from the threat of climate change

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison unveiled the conservation program nearly ten days before the February 1 deadline set by UNESCO to submit a report on the state of conservation of the reef.
“We support the health of the reef and the economic future of Queensland tourism operators, hotel providers and communities who are at the heart of the reef economy,” Morrison said in a statement.

The funding will support new climate adaptation technologies, investments in water quality programs and protect key biodiverse reef species, he added.

In July, UNESCO debated whether the Great Barrier Reef was “endangered” – a designation that means a site is under threat. If no action was taken to address the concerns, it risked losing its World Heritage status, the UN agency warned.

In a letter published last July, 13 public figures – actors, former politicians and journalists – urged leaders to act quickly and “save” the reef.

“We urge the world’s major emitters to take the most ambitious climate action under the Paris Agreement,” the letter reads. “There is still time to save the Great Barrier Reef, but Australia and the world must act now.”

Morrison’s announcement on Friday comes ahead of a general election scheduled for May.

The Australian Climate Council, which is independent of the government, rejected Morrison’s pledge, calling it a “band-aid on a broken leg” in a statement on Friday.

“Unless you cut emissions deeply in this decade, the situation on the reef will only get worse,” climate scientist and Macquarie University biology professor Professor Lesley Hughes said in the statement.

In an interview with radio station 4A Cairns on Friday, Morrison said the broadcasts fall within the policies put in place by the government, which is beneficial for the reef.

“We’re getting these results, and we’re going to keep getting them because we’re passionate about them,” he said.

Impact of the climate crisis

The Great Barrier Reef, the largest coral reef in the world, covers nearly 133,000 square miles (344,000 square kilometers) and is home to over 1,500 types of fish, over 400 types of hard coral and dozens more species.

But the effects of the climate crisis, coupled with a series of natural disasters, have had a devastating impact on the reef. A five-year survey by the Australian government in 2019 found the condition of the natural wonder had deteriorated from “poor” to “very poor”.
The reef has lost 50% of its coral populations over the past three decades, according to a study published in October 2020 by researchers at the ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.
In a report published in June last year, a UNESCO monitoring mission said that despite the Australian government’s efforts to improve the situation of the reef, “there is no doubt that the property is in danger recognized”.

But the Australian government strongly opposed this conclusion. Environment Minister Sussan Ley flew to Europe last July in a last-ditch attempt to convince other World Heritage members to vote against the measure. Australia is currently part of the rotating committee of 21 countries.

Morrison on Friday called the reef the “best managed” in the world.

“Today we take our commitment to a new level,” he said.

Australia pledges $700 million to protect the Great Barrier Reef from the threat of climate change

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