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Sunday, July 25, 2021

Queensland calls for more Great Barrier Reef funding

The Queensland premier has called for the Commonwealth to match state funding to protect the Great Barrier Reef after UNESCO recommended it be classified as “in danger”.

Last month, the Australian government said it was blindsided by the UN body’s recommendation to list the World Heritage site “in danger” after successive reef bleaching events.

UNESCO called for more government action on climate change, but the Commonwealth contested the draft recommendation list.

Environment Minister Sussan Ley is in Europe this week to convince countries to vote against the UNESCO recommendation.

On Thursday, the government will fly ambassadors from more than a dozen nations to the reef as part of a lobbying campaign to keep it off the World Heritage in Danger list. 

Federal MP Warren Entsch, the government’s reef ambassador, will host the group which includes nine countries with voting rights at the upcoming World Heritage Committee meeting.

The Queensland Conservation Council says the Leichhardt MP’s focus should be on renewables and water quality, not photo opportunities. 

“If Warren Entsch wants to be a real champion for the reef, he would get the federal government to match Queensland’s investments in renewables and water quality, instead of attacking the World Heritage organisation experts or taking diplomats snorkelling,” the council’s director Dave Copeman said.

In her letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says she agrees Australia deserves a better process from the World Heritage Committee.

Ms Palaszczuk highlighted previous instances of being given time to “collaborate and respond to its concerns in a constructive and considered manner”.

But the premier cited recent state budget allocations to the reef’s key threats, and has called on the federal government to match that funding in order to protect the World Heritage site.

In the budget Queensland allocated $2 billion for renewable energy and $500 million to sequester carbon in restored landscapes, while $270 million was allotted to improve water quality and $42 million for fisheries reform. 

The premier says a joint commitment at a state and federal level will send a strong signal to the World Heritage Committee.

Ms Palaszczuk has proposed the Commonwealth match funding to reef water quality improvement programs for the next five years and reinstate the Great Barrier Reef Ministerial Forum – a joint governance body overseeing progress under the Reef 2050 plan.

She has also asked for an equal commitment to $2 billion in funding for renewable energy through a new Memorandum of Understanding on Energy and Emissions Reduction.

The Commonwealth has previously undertaken these agreements with states including Tasmania, NSW and South Australia. 

Queensland also wants the Commonwealth to match funding to projects in Great Barrier Reef catchment areas under the state government’s Land Restoration Fund, through the federal government’s $2 billion Climate Solutions Fund.

Ahead of a World Heritage Committee meeting on July 16, Ms Palaszczuk says she welcomes urgent discussions with the prime minister on these proposals. 

AAP has sought comment from Mr Morrison and Ms Ley.

AAP

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