Climate Change statement

Climate Change statement

Climate Change is the greatest threat to the Great Barrier Reef.

The Great Barrier Reef is the largest living structure on Earth, home to rich, diverse corals and thousands of species of marine life. It is a truly irreplaceable ecosystem.

Sir David Attenborough describes it as “one of the greatest, and most splendid natural treasures that the world possesses”.

Beyond its immense scale and unparalleled beauty and diversity, the Great Barrier Reef is intrinsically linked to people. The connection of Traditional Owners to the Great Barrier Reef spans more than 60,000 years and is deeply embedded in indigenous culture, spirituality and lore. The Reef holds a special place in the hearts of all Australians which contributes significantly to its social, iconic and economic asset value of $56 billion.

But this unique ecosystem is facing a growing combination of threats, the greatest of which is climate change.

Despite the Reef’s resilience, the current rate of change is testing its limits. With more mass coral bleaching events the loss of coral from the Great Barrier Reef is happening at unprecedented levels.

Without help, the outlook for our Reef is bleak. There is cause for serious concern and a need for strong and urgent action on climate change.

Of all the ecosystems on the planet, coral reefs are among the most severely impacted by climate change, through rising water temperatures and sea levels, more frequent and severe tropical storms, and altered ocean circulation patterns. Additionally, carbon dioxide absorbed into the ocean from the atmosphere has already begun to hinder the ability of reefs to rebuild.

The science is clear and unequivocal – climate change is the greatest threat to the existence of coral reefs worldwide, including the Great Barrier Reef.

The Great Barrier Reef Foundation supports position statements and recommendations on this issue from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

There is still hope. There is still time to act.

Now is our window of opportunity to save our coral reefs, here and around the world. We all have a role to play, and collectively we can make a difference.

Bold action on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, a continued political commitment to The Paris Agreement, and local actions to improve resilience are critical. Bleaching events over the last five years make it clear that unless action is taken on these three fronts, the future of our Reef is bleak.

As the largest charity for the Reef, the challenge of climate change drives us to continually innovate and push ourselves to seek and implement the solutions that will make the difference. The Foundation funds projects that boost resilience to a changing climate, restore parts of the Reef already lost to this threat or directly contribute to carbon mitigation. In 2010, we launched the first ever comprehensive research program on climate change adaptation for coral reefs. This work delivered extensive insight into the effects of ocean acidification on coral reefs, investigated the genetic makeup of corals to progress research into heat stress tolerance, and modelled the utility of seaweed farms for carbon sequestration and ocean acidification buffering near coral reefs.

Right now, we are restoring the world’s largest green turtle nesting area, supporting Reef-based tourism operators to transition to a carbon neutral future, and protecting critical reef island habitats. We are developing new solutions for combatting the effects of climate change in five World Heritage reefs around the world. And in 2018, we became the stewards of the largest ever, single investment into protecting and managing the Reef in the face of climate change. The $443M landmark Reef Trust Partnership grant from the Australian Government includes a $100M investment into the world’s largest coral reef adaptation and restoration program.

As an organisation, we minimise our environmental footprint through the way we operate. Through our voice and our network, we participate in a constructive and progressive dialogue around solutions, and we empower our partners and the community to join us in the transition to a carbon neutral planet.

Our focus and targets are outlined in our Sustainability Commitment.

Saving our Reef and its marine life for future generations is a challenge that urgently requires local action to boost the reef’s resilience and global and Australian action to meet the Paris Agreement. The Great Barrier Reef Foundation makes a commitment to both.

Endorsed by International Science Advisory Committee 27 July 2020

Endorsed by GBRF Board 13 August 2020