Minister Ley speech on the Great Barrier Reef

23 July 2021

May I first thank you, Mr Chairman, for the constructive and respectful way you have led this meeting. And may I thank China for the constructive and respectful relationship between our two countries over many years within the World Heritage Convention.

Every Australian is heavily invested in the protection of our Great Barrier Reef.

In response to the questions by members, I draw your attention to our updated Reef 2050 Plan. It shows where things are going well, and where they can be improved.

The plan is a 35-year roadmap that uses science to drive investments in the health and resilience of the reef. It is underpinned by more than $3 billion.

Australia is already taking action on the recommendations of the draft decision including:

  1. building resilience and reducing pressures from poor water quality, illegal fishing, coral-eating starfish;
  2. investing almost $1 billion in our Water Quality Improvement Plan;
  3. world-leading science; including $150 million for the Reef Restoration and Adaptation Program; and
  4. reducing global emissions through our Paris Agreement commitments. We are meeting and beating our targets.

We have met all our reporting commitments, and either fulfilled or made significant progress towards every Committee recommendation since 2012.

The  first five years of the reef 2050 plan are delivering results.  Actions to combat the impacts of global climate change on the reef are front and centre. 

On water quality, We are over halfway towards our sediment target and almost halfway to our dissolved inorganic nitrogen target.

The draft decision to immediately ‘in-danger’ list the Reef before the Committee has finalised its climate policy makes no sense.

Delegates, we ask only two things:

  1. time for experts to see first-hand our commitment to the Reef, its present condition and our management
  2. and for the final climate policy to provide a consistent framework for addressing the impacts of climate change on all world heritage properties. 

Put simply, without a site visit, no desired state of conservation, no corrective measures, and the absence of an agreed climate policy – an immediate In Danger Listing will only harm the reef – not protect it.

Australia believes our modest amendments to the draft decision will maintain respect for the technical advice, while also encouraging the hard working local communities whose lives and livelihoods depend on this global icon.

May I thank esteemed delegates for recognising Australia’s commitment to protecting the site.

I  hope we can find consensus.