July 1, 2015

Worsening climate disruption leads UNESCO to keep Reef on ‘Watch’ list

BRISBANE, 1 JULY:  UNESCO, the body charged with protecting World Heritage sites, has today decided to leave the delicate Great Barrier Reef on its ‘watch’ list despite heavy lobbying from the Coal Industry and Government to get UNESCO to give the Reef a clean bill of health.

The Great Barrier Reef has lost 50% of its coral cover over the last 30 years, in large part due to climate change. The Reef faces heightened risks as international coal companies plan to unlock massive coal mines in the Galilee Basin to export through major new coal ports on the Reef, such as the controversial Abbot Point expansion.

“The coal lobby and the Federal Government have run a concerted campaign to get UNESCO to ignore the Reef’s ill health so that they can continue with their disastrous coal expansion plans,” said Moira Williams, from 350.org Australia.

Australia’s leading coral reef experts recently called for the scrapping of Adani’s mining and port expansion projects because they will be a death knell for the Reef. Its rapid deterioration is one of the most visual demonstrations of the growing severity of the problem, and a warning sign that carbon-intensive fossil fuels must remain in the ground.

“The Great Barrier Reef is in enough trouble already. As the ocean warms and acidifies, the last thing it needs is a huge port expansion and an endless parade of coal ships– which happen to be carrying more coal to make the water hotter and more acidic. Lather, rinse, repeat,” commented Bill McKibben, 350.org Co-Founder.

The coal industry and Australian government have failed to successfully lobby other interests too, as 11 international banks have publicly ruled out involvement with the fiercely unpopular coal export proposals.

Australia’s Big 4 banks are receiving increased scrutiny from customers as well, with Commonwealth Bank of Australia feeling the most heat as it is rumoured to be in advanced talks with Indian coal mining giant Adani to potentially fund the proposal. In May, thousands of people around the globe took peaceful action at over 100 Commbank offices and local branches, shutting down operations at several locations.

“UNESCO’s acknowledgement of the Reef’s delicate state is a testament to the fact that we need to do more to better protect it. That’s why in just the last week alone, 2000 people have joined the community group Reef Defenders Alliance, pledging to take non-violent direct action to protect the Reef from these dangerous coal proposals,” concluded Williams.

Media Enquiries: Krista Collard, 0424 712 034