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Climate deal to save the reef

By Mark Beale

THE first universal climate agreement has been passed, and is hoped to have significant impacts across the world, including here in the Whitsundays.

The historical agreement requires countries across the globe to limit global warming to well below two degrees, with a goal of 1.5 degrees. The reduction in temperature will help limit the impact climate change has on the Great Barrier Reef, preventing coral bleaching and ocean acidification, caused by emissions of greenhouse gases, through the burning of fossil fuels.

A transition away from fossil fuels and onto renewable energy such as wind and solar are some of the changes we can expect to see.

“The impacts of climate change are already being felt by the reef,” Tony Fontes of the Environment Council of Central Queensland explained.

“We had had significant coral bleaching events in 1998 and 2002 (and) we have a very large El Nino weather pattern this year which could lead to significant bleaching this summer,” he said.

“For the past 20 years the world as a collective has done little to combat climate change. Although late in coming, the reef really needs this climate deal.”

Mr Fontes said the Paris agreement was also great news for the tourism industry, dependent on a healthy reef, worth $6 billion annually, and supporting over 63,000 sustainable jobs.

“Scientists have made it very clear that if we are to avoid exceeding a two degree rise in temperature, then 80% of the currently known fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground,” he said.

“For Australia, this means no new coal mines, and locally that includes the Carmichael Mine in the Galilee Basin.

“We should look at this as an economic opportunity, as the Whitsundays can become an energy entrepreneur, with ample wind and solar.”

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