Australia faces climate criticism over A$1bn Great Barrier Reef project

According to Australia’s Prime Minister, the country will invest A$1 billion (£520 million; $700 million) over nine years to improve the water quality and other components of the ailing Great Barrier Reef.

Scientists have praised the funds, but they caution that they do not address the reef’s most serious threat: climate change.

Australia, a climate laggard among developed nations, is frequently chastised for not doing more to prevent coral bleaching caused by rising water temperatures.

PM Scott Morrison stated that the extra investment would help a wide range of people.

It will be used to fund programmes that prevent erosion and pollution entering the water, as well as other conservation measures such as fighting illicit fishing and coral-eating starfish.

Mr Morrison stated on Friday that the reef is responsible for 64,000 jobs.

“As a result, its health is determined by both the economic and natural health of that region.”

Mr Morrison is poised to call a general election in May, hoping to keep important seats in Queensland, which is home to the Great Barrier Reef. He stated that the fresh funds were added to the previous promises of A$2 billion.

However, the declaration comes just days before Australia is scheduled to give an update to UNESCO on its intentions to protect this natural marvel.

After unprecedented back-to-back coral bleaching disasters, the government successfully lobbied to keep the reef off UNESCO’s official list of World Heritage properties “in risk” last year.

Following the statement on Friday, there was a new round of criticism. The Australian Conservation Foundation stated that while improving water quality is crucial, “the reef is dead” without climate action.

The Australian Marine Conservation Society urged for the government to “dramatically enhance their climate ambition” in order to meet “a gap that needs to be addressed.”

“Areas of the Great Barrier Reef are currently on high alert for a large bleaching event, which is unprecedented under the La Nina weather pattern,” the statement reads.

Under-stress corals eject the algae that gives them colour and life, which causes them to bleach. They can recover, but only if the circumstances permit it.

Australia has pledged to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2030, however some have criticised its goal, which is a 26% reduction from 2005 levels.

It has defended itself by claiming that it is on track to reach its promises, which the UN has previously refuted, and that climate change is a global concern.

The Great Barrier Reef, which stretches over 2,300 kilometres (1,400 miles) off Australia’s north-east coast, is one of the world’s most biodiverse ecosystems.

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