The Australian government has announced that it will boost the funding provided to help protect the Great Barrier Reef from the growing impact of climate change.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has pledged A$500 million (US$379 million) to help restore water quality, tackle the growing issue with the devastating crown of thorns starfish, and breed heat-resistant coral to help repopulate the damaged reef system.
“Like reefs all over the world, the Great Barrier Reef is under pressure,” Turnbull said on Sunday. “A big challenge demands a big investment – and this investment gives our reef the best chance.”
The money is sure to be welcomed by many fighting for the survival of the globally important reef, which covers an area of 348,000 square kilometers (134,360 square miles). But others are more skeptical, noting that current efforts are not achieving desired results, and that some of the money will simply be directed to farmers when the biggest threat to the reef is rising water temperatures. Others point out that the state of Queensland, which relies heavily on the reef for tourism, is a marginal seat and elections are around the corner.
The current government has come under heavy criticism over recent years for their attitude to the reef, which is seen as one of the nation’s biggest assets. Studies have shown that the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area generates an incredible $6.4 billion for the Australian economy a year, providing close to 69,000 full-time jobs.
Yet despite the clear environmental and economic contribution of the reef, many have accused the current coalition of not only turning a blind eye to the damage being wrought by climate change – which is estimated to have killed up to 30 percent of the coral in the last few years alone – but actively contributing to its decline by supporting the highly controversial Adani coal mine. The government was even accused of lobbying the United Nations to prevent the reef from being listed as a heritage site “in danger”.
While the injection of funds is clearly welcome news, particularly for those who have the unenviable task of trying to save the reef system, in reality, there is only one long-term solution. Despite signing the Paris climate agreement back in 2015, Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions have soared over the past year, hitting the highest on record.
If the government wants to get serious about protecting the Great Barrier Reef, then it needs to take concrete action to tackle the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions, plastic pollution, and agricultural runoff.