Australia pledges $704 million to save the Great Barrier Reef
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The Australian government has pledged to spend an additional A$1 billion ($704 million) over nine years to improve the health of the Great Barrier Reef after blocking a UNESCO decision on downgrading the natural wonder world heritage status
Of the funding, A$580 million will go towards working with land managers along Australia’s northeast coast to address erosion, improve land conditions and reduce runoff of nutrients and pesticides.
A further A$253 million will support the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, which manages the world’s largest coral reef ecosystem, in an effort to reduce threats from the crown of thorns starfish and prevent fishing illegal.
In addition, A$93 million is earmarked for research to make the reef more resilient and strengthen coping strategies.
In July last year, Australia garnered enough international support to postpone an attempt by UNESCO, the United Nations cultural organization, to downgrade the reef’s World Heritage status to ‘endangered’ due damage caused by climate change.
The reef suffered significantly from coral bleaching caused by unusually warm ocean temperatures in 2016, 2017 and 2020. The bleaching damaged two-thirds of the coral.
But the issue will be back on the agenda of the World Heritage Committee at its next annual meeting in June.
UNESCO has asked Australia to provide more information by next Tuesday on what is being done to protect the coral. The government said on Friday it would meet the deadline.
Opposition Labor Party deputy leader Richard Marles called the funding announcement a posturing.
“You can’t be serious about supporting the Great Barrier Reef if you’re not serious about taking action on climate change. Scott Morrison isn’t,” Marles said.
Morrison was widely criticized at a United Nations climate summit in Scotland in November over his government’s aim to cut Australia’s emissions by just 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2030.
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