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12 October 2007 - Climate targets must be more ambitious to save coral reefs      

CLIMATE TARGETS MUST BE MORE AMBITIOUS TO SAVE CORAL REEFS                                                                                                                                                                                                       

Sydney, 12 October 2007    
                                                                                                                                                           

A disturbing report on the threat climate change poses to the Great Barrier Reef has underscored the need for both the Government and the ALP to be far more ambitious in dealing with climate change.

Climate Change and the Great Barrier Reef: A Vulnerability Assessment is a peer-reviewed publication compiled as a collaboration between the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) and over 80 leading climate and tropical marine experts.

The report states that “Successive studies of the potential impacts of thermal stress on coral reefs have supported the notion that coral dominated reefs are likely to largely disappear with a 2°C rise in sea temperature over the next 100 years. This, coupled with the additional vulnerability of coral reefs to high levels of acidification once the atmosphere reaches 500 parts per million, suggests that coral dominated reefs will be rare or non-existent in the near future.” (page 295)

The Howard Government has not yet set its aspirational target for greenhouse gas reductions whereas the ALP policy of reducing emissions by 60% by 2050 is a target that aims for global temperatures to stabilise at a 2°C rise. The GBRMPA report makes it clear that a 2°C rise in temperature is simply too high for coral reefs.

 “The report rings a cacophony of alarm bells about the impending disaster facing coral reef systems such as the Great Barrier and Ningaloo Reefs if global temperatures rise by 2°C, said Nicola Beynon HSI Wildlife and Habitat Program Manager. “The Australian public should be aware that stabilising global temperatures below 2°C is currently beyond the policy ambitions of both major parties and demand stronger leadership to save coral reefs.”

As the GBRMPA report says: “The Great Barrier Reef is renowned internationally for its ecological importance and the beauty of its seascapes and landscapes. These natural values also provide important ecosystem services, which underpin Australian $6.9 billion worth of economic activity and incalculable social values.”………. “The Great Barrier Reef is home to about 1500 species of fish, 350 species of hard coral, more than 4000 species of mollusc, 500 species of algae, 6 of the world’s 7 species of marine turtle, 24 species of seabird, more than 30 species of whale and dolphin and the dugong.”

“All this is at risk unless the world agrees to deep greenhouse emission targets and achieves them well before 2050,” said Ms Beynon.

The Great Barrier Reef is listed as National and World Heritage. HSI has nominated Ningaloo Reef for National Heritage protection under Australian law. It is also a contender for World Heritage protection.

HSI will attend the meetings of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention for Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol to be held in Bali 3-14 December where post 2012 climate action will be negotiated.





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