OPINION

Stop the spin, our Great Barrier Reef and livelihoods depend on climate action now

Great Barrier Reef and livelihoods depend on climate action | Our Future

The world's eyes are on the Great Barrier Reef following another narrow escape from being placed on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Like tens of thousands of Australians, I love the Great Barrier Reef so much that my livelihood depends on it through tourism.

This year, with international borders closed, I've been delighted to see so many of our Australian clients discovering - or rediscovering - our Reef and marvelling at its beauty.

As a travel agent who organises dive experiences, I can see the hurt tourism operators are feeling now - not only as a result of the pandemic but from a spin and bluster campaign led by the Australian Government to avert the "in danger" listing.

From the moment UNESCO announced its draft decision, I have followed proceedings with interest and alarm.

I could see that a listing would pressure the Australian Government into real action on climate change and improving water quality.

This would help safeguard the future for my business and that of hundreds of others in Cairns that rely on a healthy Great Barrier Reef.

And yet, there was Sussan Ley travelling thousands of miles to campaign against the listing, supposedly for the benefit of the tourism industry here. It didn't make sense to me.

Deborah Dickson-Smith

Deborah Dickson-Smith

While the federal government may have avoided an "in danger" listing this year, the World Heritage Committee requested that it report back to UNESCO with a plan to address climate change and water quality to better protect the Great Barrier Reef by February 1, 2022.

The World Heritage Committee will then meet again in 12 months time to discuss the Great Barrier Reef's status, and not the two-year delay that the Morrison government was pushing for.

If we get those changes through, this is going to be wonderful for the Great Barrier Reef, businesses like mine and the tourists who will flock here when borders eventually open.

We desperately need the Australian Government, as custodian of our Great Barrier Reef, to listen to UNESCO raising the alarm and act decisively to reduce emissions.

The Great Barrier Reef is a symbol of hope and beauty, and should galvanise the Australian Government to fight climate change with the scale and urgency required to save our Reef and the jobs - like mine - that rely on it.

Deborah Dickson-Smith is a director of Sydney-based Diveplanit Travel which has an office in Cairns.

This story Great Barrier Reef and livelihoods depend on climate action | Our Future first appeared on The Canberra Times.