20 July 2018


WWF-Australia welcomed the increased focus on climate change – including the devastating consecutive coral bleaching events in 2016 and 2017 – in the revised Reef 2050 Plan released today.

“However, we are deeply concerned that the plan still fails to acknowledge the obvious truth that Australia must do much more to cut our own emissions if we are to give the Reef a fighting chance,” said WWF-Australia Head of Oceans Richard Leck

The revised plan highlights the need to limit warming to 1.5°C, stating:

A concerted international effort to limit the effects of global climate change is essential to provide the best protection for coral reefs. Respected coral scientists have documented in peer-reviewed journals that most of the world’s coral reefs will not survive unless the global temperature increase is limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation has found that drastic reductions in CO2 emissions are essential to giving coral reefs a chance to survive climate change.

But Mr Leck said Australia’s emissions reduction efforts are not enough to do our share to limit warming to 2°C let alone 1.5°C.

This was highlighted by the UN Environment Program's Emissions Gap 2017 report which named Australia as one of the nations “likely to require further action" to achieve its 2030 goals.

“It is simply not good enough for the revised Reef 2050 plan to suggest the global community must work to limit warming when Australia is not doing its fair share."

“As custodian of the world’s most important coral reef, Australia should be a leader not a laggard. How can we expect the rest of the world to step up when we are not?"

“We need to speed up the transition to renewable energy and we should not be opening new coal mines ” he said.

A revised Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan was also released today which importantly sets catchment by catchment pollution reductions to be achieved by 2025.

WWF-Australia Senior Manager Reef and Water Sean Hoobin said “The new pollution targets are a big advance but there is little detail on the actions needed to achieve them particularly on how funding to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation will be used”*.

“The good news is that the plan estimates the Queensland government’s proposed pollution laws will achieve substantial reductions in fertiliser and sediment run off when in place,” Mr Hoobin said.

But he said existing targets are nowhere near being met.

This year 90% of agriculture was supposed to be at best practice standard. The recently released Queensland Auditor General’s report showed that only 2% of graziers and 7% of cane farmers are using best management practice.

“We will continue to fail unless we have a plan which clearly sets out the actions and investments needed to achieve the new pollution targets,” Mr Hoobin said.

*The federal government is providing $444 million to the GBRF with $201 million of this to be spent on water quality.


Mark Symons, Senior Media Officer WWF Australia - msymons@wwf.org.au