A report by the world’s top climate scientists has added weight to the growing mountain of evidence that Australia urgently needs to up its climate game to help safeguard ocean icons like the Great Barrier Reef.
The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report published on Monday warns time is running out for the world to limit warming to 1.5℃ – a crucial temperature threshold for coral reefs around the world.
The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) said Australia’s current climate target is more consistent with a 2.5 to 3.0℃ rise in global average temperature – a level that would devastate the Great Barrier Reef and all the world’s coral reefs.
“As custodians of the Great Barrier Reef, Australia has a responsibility to be a world leader in reducing emissions to help lower the temperatures that are driving coral-damaging ocean heat waves,” said AMCS Great Barrier Reef campaigner Cherry Muddle.
Ms Muddle said the IPCC report backs the science-based draft decision of UNESCO to recommend listing the Reef as ‘in Danger’ due to climate change and water quality pressures. The World Heritage Committee (WHC) recently deferred a decision on whether to list the Reef as ‘in Danger’ until it meets again in July 2022.
“We still have time to act but massive emissions reductions are needed right now,” she said.
“This is clear from the IPCC report, as it was clear in all previous reports and more recently, and closer to home, the WHC’s warning that the Great Barrier Reef could be listed as ‘in Danger’ unless the Australian government demonstrates improved protection.
“The heat is on our Reef and the government. There are three major opportunities for the Morrison government to demonstrate climate leadership over the next 10 months – the Glasgow Climate Change Conference (COP26), the World Heritage reporting deadline of 1 February 2022 and the federal election due before May 2022. The government cannot afford to delay implementing proper climate policies any longer.
“In the light of the IPCC report, the Morrison government should get on with rejecting proposals like the Clive Palmer-owned Central Queensland Coal mine which is planned for an area just 10km from the Reef, a project that will only add to the emissions putting beautiful places like the Reef in danger.
“If the Morrison government is truly serious about protecting the Reef and helping the wildlife and Queensland communities that rely on it, they must catch up with other global leaders and commit to drastically reducing emissions.
“Every fraction of a degree of warming will be crucial for the Reef in the next 10 years, it will shape its future. So, let’s just get on with taking the action it needs.”
To do our fair share of limiting global average temperature rise to 1.5C based on 2005 levels, Australia needs a national Emissions Reduction Target of 75% by 2030 and policies to achieve net zero by 2035, including a just and orderly transition out of coal-fired power stations and supercharging investment in renewables electricity.