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Janet on reducing carbon pollution to protect our climate and our reef

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Janet Rice 14 Nov 2017

 I move:

That the Senate take note of the document.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority annual report, along with a number of other reports that have been tabled today, focuses in particular on the impact of global warming and the impact that that is having on the health of Australia's ecosystems, economy and environment in general. The opening pages of the annual report of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority lay this out in very stark terms. The chairman's review says:

It has been a challenging year for the Great Barrier Reef and for tropical coral reefs around the world. Many have been affected by human-induced global warming causing mass coral bleaching and significant losses of live coral cover.

It states:

The Authority reported the impacts of the mass bleaching in 2015-16 in the Marine Park, identifying long-term ocean warming as the underlying cause. We also pointed to the need to reduce global greenhouse gas—in particular the need to deliver the commitments of the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

It also notes that some of the other factors that are impacting on the reef, such as an outbreak of coral disease and crown-of-thorns starfish, have been ongoing and that it's likely that the increase in coral disease is a symptom of physiological stress after coral bleaching. Then adding to these impacts was severe Tropical Cyclone Debbie, and it notes:

This tropical cyclone was very large, powerful and slow-moving, causing massive waves that break coral into rubble. These category 4 and 5 storms are not unprecedented but are increasing in frequency, with more occurring in the past 12 years than occurred in the previous 100 years.

In other words, it is authoritative; it backs up all the other evidence from all over the world about the impact that global warming is having on such significant natural features as well as on our economy in Australia and across the world. It points out starkly that we cannot address the problems that the Great Barrier Reef is facing without making serious efforts to reduce the impact of global warming.

That's what it comes down to. With all of the work that we can do—we can be reducing sediment run-offs, we can be doing our best to be addressing crown-of-thorns starfish and doing everything else that we can—unless we address the underlying cause of mitigating global warming, it will all be for nought. We've seen from the unprecedented back-to-back years of coral bleaching what impact that has had, with 90 per cent of the reef being affected. We are looking down the barrel of seeing the death of the Great Barrier Reef or vast portions of it within coming years. This was not what was being foreshadowed, even just five years ago. These are the impacts that global warming is having on the Great Barrier Reef, as well as on other ecosystems around the country and, as a consequence, on our economy and social wellbeing.

Without the Great Barrier Reef there, think of the tens of thousands of jobs that aren't going to be there. Think of the massive impact on the Queensland and the Australian economies when you have such a large portion of the reef that will no longer be there as the tourist attraction that it currently is, let alone the massive impacts on the marine ecosystems with the death of large portions of the reef. Yet, this government continues on just paying lip service to climate change. It continues on wanting an expansion of coalmining and an expansion of coal exports. It continues on with actually wanting to put billions of dollars of our taxes into subsidising the coal industry, which we know is only going to exacerbate climate change. We know that if the Galilee Basin and the coal there is used it is going to be the equivalent of having another whole country of carbon emissions going up into the atmosphere, destroying the precious jewel that is currently there in the Great Barrier Reef.

It is there in black and white. It is stark and it is important. It is the most important thing that we need to do as a country—to work out and to be serious about reducing our carbon emissions.

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