The Coalition has promised it will spend $1bn on the Great Barrier Reef over the next decade if it wins the 2022 election.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is in Far North Queensland today to make the announcement in an attempt to secure Queensland votes (which won him the election last time) by one-upping Labor’s pledge of $163 million last week to fund projects protect the reef.

The announcement comes two months after the government pushed to prevent UNESCO listing the reef as “in danger” due to the effects of climate change.

In a few days Australia is also due to send a report to UNESCO about the state of the reef and its plans to protect it, before a meeting of the world heritage committee in July.

The government has labelled this the “single largest investment” in the reef.

“Funding will support scientists, farmers and traditional owners, backing in the very latest marine science while building resilience and reducing threats from pollution in our oceans, and predators such as the crown-of-thorns starfish,” Morrison said in a statement ahead of the announcement.

Funnily enough, he neglected to mention climate change.

Over nine years more than half a billion dollars will go towards improving water quality, covering work on erosion, land condition, and reducing runoff of pesticides and nutrients.

Another $253m will go to reef management and conservation projects, including combating crown-of-thorns starfish and prevent illegal fishing.

$74.4m will target habitat restoration, marine debris and species protection in programs to be led by Traditional Owners and community groups.

Other funds will go towards reef health monitoring systems and research into reef resilience.

The reef has suffered five mass bleaching events since 1998 directly linked to rising ocean temperatures caused by climate change.

Federal environment minister Sussan Ley and the government’s own marine science experts agree the greatest threat to the natural wonder is climate change.

You know what caused and fuels climate change?

Nowhere in the decade-long plan is there anything about the government adjusting its weak af 2030 emissions reduction target of 26 per cent.

Morrison did however acknowledge that protecting the reef means generating up to $6.4bn in tourism revenue a year and supporting 64,000 jobs, but I guess that’s not enough to address the most urgent threat.

Instead, old man yells at starfish.

The crown-of-thorns starfish have been an issue in the reef for years and can devastated coral communities.

BUT warming ocean temperatures are what causes the starfish to thrive in plague volumes!

A 2015 study found that a 2° C increase in sea temperature can increase the probability of survival of these creatures by, um, 240 per cent.

Yep.

Hello once again to a Coalition that goes around in circles, throwing money at countless fancy-sounding projects and short-term fixes without actually doing anything.

Remember Malcom Turnbull‘s Great Barrier Reef Foundation? His government created it in 2018 for $440 million, with the aim to fund small projects with grants. But it did absolutely fuck all.

Then in 2019 was found by the auditor-general to have failed to comply fully with rules designed to ensure transparency and value for money.

Morrison’s $1bn investment is on top of another $2bn it’s already promised to the Reef 2050 Plan.

“This is already the best managed reef in the world and today we take our commitment to a new level,” Morrison said.

But conservationists slammed the plan as flawed due to the government’s “inadequate” emissions reduction targets.

In December Simon Miller, a spokesperson for the Australian Marine Conservation Society told Guardian Australia: “The climate crisis is by far the biggest threat to our reef, so the lack of ambition detailed in the Reef 2050 Plan to tackle this issue is disgraceful.”

Head of oceans at WWF Australia Richard Leck said the 2050 plan showed the Australian government was failing to keep the future of the reef as safe as possible, especially from climate change.

“The plan prioritises limiting the impacts of climate change by contributing to global efforts to reduce emissions. But it then repeats the inadequate commitments made by the prime minister at the recent climate conference in Glasgow.”

He also said the funding was insufficient to reduce reef pollution from the land.

So how does Labor’s plan compare?

On his QLD campaign tour earlier this month Labor leader Anthony Albanese announced the party’s plan to preserve the reef.

Of the $163 million committed, which doesn’t have a spending timeframe, $85 million would be immediately available for coral to coast reef resilience and land restoration projects.

Labor said its plan would capture carbon and reconnect landscapes including traditional fire management, habitat regeneration, pest and weed management, improvement of water quality flowing to the reef, coral reef regeneration, mangrove planting and reef science.

It also announced last month it would set a target of a 43 per cent emissions cut by 2030 compared to 2005 levels.

It’s higher than the Morrison government’s target of a 26-28 per cent cut, but it’s still not what scientists say is necessary to avoid the most disastrous effects of climate change.

The 2015 Paris Agreement, which Australia has signed, says limiting global heating to 1.5ºC will “significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change”. In order to achieve this, net zero needs to be reached globally by 2050, and we have cut to cut emissions by 50 per cent by 2030.

Godspeed, little turts.

Image: Getty Images / Rick Loomis