The Australian Greens responded to the International Union for Conservation of Nature declaring climate change the top threat to natural World Heritage sites, including the Great Barrier Reef, which has been assessed as having a “critical” outlook for the first time:
Greens Environment Spokesperson Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said:
“Where is the Environment Minister? At this rate our natural World Heritage Sites will soon be gone and with them biodiversity and wildlife and our tourism industry. This will be the Morrison Government’s legacy.
“We are facing the prospect of losing our most precious natural wonders because the Morrison Government refuses to take the climate crisis seriously.
“From coral bleaching events on the Reef to catastrophic bushfires in the Blue Mountains and Gondwana Rainforests, and right now on Fraser Island (K’Gari), the world is watching these sites be destroyed by global warming while Australia sits on its hands on climate action.
“The Commonwealth has a clear obligation to protect the values of Australia's World Heritage Sites and it’s failing.
“The goalposts have shifted – we need net zero emissions well before 2050 or the consequences will be devastating.”
Queensland Senator and Greens Leader in the Senate Larissa Waters said:
“It is a wakeup call that the three-yearly IUCN World Heritage Outlook has downgraded the Great Barrier Reef from 'significant concern' to 'critical'.
“We’ve lost 50% of the coral cover of the Great Barrier Reef already, with three mass bleaching events in the last five years.
“Everyone but the Federal Government can see what peril the Reef is in.
“This international report is the Australian Government’s last warning to change direction, or UNESCO will likely list the Reef as World Heritage in Danger, which while factually accurate, could decimate the tourism industry.
“We need strong 2030 targets for climate action to have any hope of saving the Reef and the 60,000 jobs it supports.“
Greens Oceans Spokesperson Senator Peter Whish-Wilson said:
“I personally understand why many Australians are struggling to comprehend that our Great Barrier Reef, one of the world’s biggest and most important ecosystems, has lost half its coral cover in just over a decade.
“I am struggling with this myself, its health has declined so rapidly, as have other key oceanic habitats around our wonderful country. Tasmania’s ancient giant kelp forests have all but disappeared and the Ningaloo Coast and Shark Bay World Heritage areas have been also downgraded from ‘Good’ to ‘Good with some concerns’ in this latest IUCN World Heritage Outlook assessment.
“Our reefs and other marine ecosystems are simply too precious too lose, and if we are to secure their survival for the future generations on this planet, we must act urgently and strongly."