Amid climate change threat, Australia pledges US$700 million to protect the Great Barrier Reef

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has disclosed a decade-long conservation program to save the Great Barrier Reef.

Owing to the increasing climate change fear, the Australian government has pledged 1 billion Australian dollars (US$700 million or INR5,200 crore) to save the iconic Great Barrier Reef. The announcement has come months after the UNESCO-listed complex reef system just managed to escape the United Nation’s ‘danger list’ due to the threat of climate change.

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison unveiled the nearly decade-long conservation package, days ahead of a February 1 deadline set by UNESCO to submit a report on the reef’s state of conservation. “We are backing the health of the reef and the economic future of tourism operators, hospitality providers, and Queensland communities that are at the heart of the reef economy,” said Morrison in the official statement.

He unveiled a nine-year conservation spending plan that includes the deployment of new climate adaptation technology, investment in water quality programs, and the protection of key species and habitat restoration. On top of the conservation efforts, Morrison also emphasised on the government’s commitment to protect some 64,000 jobs and the tourism industry that depends on the reef.  

Great barrier reef
The Great Barrier Reef is home to over 1,500 species of fish. Image: Shutterstock/V_E.

The world’s largest coral bank, The Great Barrier Reef stretches over nearly 1,33,000 square miles (3,44,000 square kilometers) and is home to more than 1,500 types of fish, 400 kinds of hard corals, and 900 islands. But over last three decades, it has lost 50 per cent of its coral population, according to a study published in October 2020 by researchers from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.

A five-year survey done by the Australian government in 2019 also found that the condition of the natural wonder had gotten down from ‘poor’ to ‘very poor’, due to the hazardous effects of the climate crisis along with a series of natural disasters. When the UN warned that the Great Barrier Reef could lose its World Heritage status in July last year, 13 public figures including actors, former politicians, and journalists, urged global leaders to act fast and save the reef. “We urge the world’s major emitters to undertake the most ambitious climate action under the Paris Agreement,” the collective letter read. “There is still time to save the Great Barrier Reef, but Australia and the world must act now.”

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