High time for leadership on Great Barrier Reef

High time for leadership on Great Barrier Reef | Our Future

Many people in far north Queensland are feeling like a tightly pulled string under an enormous weight, as we wait to hear if the Great Barrier Reef will be listed as "in danger" by the World Heritage Committee this week.

The pressure on our communities has been building day after day as our reef made national and international news headlines over the federal government's fight to stop UNESCO's draft recommendation from staying its course.

Environment Minister Sussan Ley claimed she was "blindsided" by the announcement in June, strongly opposing the draft decision and labelling it "politically motivated" while flying a bunch of international ambassadors to Port Douglas in an effort to change hearts and minds.

This is all despite the clear and obvious warning signs the incredible natural glory of the Great Barrier Reef is under threat.

Science shows that already at 1.2 degrees of global warming, the reef has been hit by three marine heatwaves that resulted in mass coral bleaching and mortality.

I am lucky to have been born in Douglas - the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef - and call it my home.

Because of this, I feel that I am the reef's custodian by birthright and also because I am a Douglas Shire councillor.

For our community's tourism industry alone, the reef's economic value is estimated at more than $670 million, and is responsible for more than 2000 full-time job.

That's about 80 per cent of our local economy.

There is no doubt that our tourism industry is frightened for its future, and while I acknowledge that the Australian and Queensland governments have made new investments to tackle local threats such as water quality, the level of effort is not adequate to match the threats.

This is particularly the case with climate change where the federal government's lack of leadership has left us ranked last on climate action out of UN member countries.

The draft decision from UNESCO to list the reef as "in danger" should sound alarm bells that Australia has so far not pulled its weight in this global effort.

No matter what outcome, this should be a wake-up call for the federal government to take urgent action on climate change to safeguard the reef and the thousands of livelihoods that rely on it.

A future for coral reefs is possible but only with bold leadership, and drastic action to slash emissions this decade.

Abigail Noli is a councillor in Douglas Shire, Queensland.

This story High time for leadership on Great Barrier Reef | Our Future first appeared on The Canberra Times.