Great Barrier Reef
Peter Gash, owner and manager of the Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort, snorkels with Oliver Lanyon and Lewis Marshall, Senior Rangers in the Great Barrier Reef region for the Queenlsand Parks and Wildlife Service, during an inspection of the reef's condition in an area called the 'Coral Gardens' located at Lady Elliot Island located north-east from the town of Bundaberg in Queensland, Australia, June 10, 2015. Reuters/David Gray/File

While Australian Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg favours lesser role for coal in the future energy mix of Australia, the former head of the Great Barrier Reef Marina Park Authority seeks a ban on new coal mines. Graeme Kelleher debunks what some politicians say that Australia could have a coal industry and the reef too.

A ban on new coal mines is the only way to protect the World Heritage-listed marine sanctuary, Kelleher, who headed the authority for 16 years, says. He backs the call of Greenpeace for the ban on new coal mines, Perth Now reports.

Besides posing a danger to climate change, Kelleher warns the approval of coal mine projects, such as the Carmichael coal mine of Adani in Queensland’s Galilee Basin, would endanger the reef and defy the Paris Climate Agreement. “If Australians truly want their children and grandchildren to be able to visit and enjoy the Great Barrier Reef, we need to loudly call for a ban on new coal mines and a reduction in the mining of coal,” he points out, 9News reports.

To safeguard the reef, the Australian and Queensland governments came out with the first yearly report on the implementation of a 35-year plan. Australia hopes to convince UNESCO to keep the Great Barrier Reef off the list of World Heritage sites in danger.

However, while the report acknowledges that climate change is among the various threats on the reef and notes that a mass coral bleaching event that affect reefs globally had killed 22 percent of the Great Barrier Reef’s corals, the 36-page report mentions “climate change” only four times in the report. Reef experts point out that the plan aims to address water quality issues but avoids threats to climate change.

Professor Terry Hughes, an expert who has done surveys, says that even water quality efforts have failed. The Australian Institute of Marine Science admitted in April that the Reef 2050 Plan’s water quality targets would unlikely be met.