Environmental group Greenpeace has slammed Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s plan to “save” the Great Barrier Reef, saying it appears to be “a roadmap to Great Barrier grief – not a roadmap to recovery.”
The Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan warns that the largest long-term threat comes from climate change, while immediate pressures include improving water quality, which has declined due to pollutants from agricultural production.
Greenpeace campaigner Jessica Panegyres said in a statement this weekend that the plan fails to deal with the greatest threat.
“This plan allows for massive coal port expansions and barely deals with climate change, despite the Australian government’s own scientists saying climate change is the number one threat to the Reef.”
The Reef 2050 Plan is a joint plan between the Australian and Queensland governments that is supposed to provide for the Reef’s long-term protection from 2015 to 2050.
UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee requested the plan when it first expressed concern about the Reef’s health in 2012.
A draft version of the report had been criticized by some scientists as being a plan for sustainable development rather than protecting and conserving the reef.
This week, leading reef scientists said the Reef couldn’t be healthy if planned coal expansions go ahead, following a report published in international journal Science.
In the report, world-renowned experts said that the World Heritage Area is at risk of collapse from climate change and poor management.
“The 2050 Plan is playing lip service to Reef protection rather than committing to the necessary interventions,” said Panegyres.
“This is disappointing but hardly surprising given Tony Abbott’s track record on environmental protection and climate change.”
Abbot said at the Plan’s release Saturday that the government was helping to ensure the reef is “handed on in the best possible condition to our children and grandchildren”.
“Australia is telling its international partners that we are utterly committed as an entire nation to the protection of the Great Barrier Reef, one of the natural wonders of the world,” he said, adding that if there was only one thing in the world to be heritage listed, the reef would be it.
He called protection of the reef “a number one priority.”
Greenpeace says Abbot continues to ignore one of the greatest threats posed to the reef.
“Unfortunately, the Australian government is choosing new coal mines and coal ports, rather than a healthy Reef that supports thousands of jobs and a thriving tourism industry,” said Panegyres.
Concern has been expressed over the environmental damage posed by the potential opening of the nine large coalmines in Queensland.
Australian conservation group Mackay has said if the proposed expansion goes ahead, Australia would be responsible for exporting massive amounts of greenhouse gas producing coal, putting the Reef at risk, along with the turtles, fish, dugongs, whales, dolphins, coral and other species that depend on it.
It added that such an outcome would not only risk a national ecological disaster, it could also put at risk tens of thousands of jobs in the marine tourism industry in the area.
The World Heritage Committee will decide in June whether to place the Great Barrier Reef on the “in danger” list.
Government scientists have recognized it to be in poor and worsening condition, having lost half of its coral over the past 30 years.