Coal or coral: time to decide

A new report has valued the Great Barrier Reef at $56 billion, dwarfing the value of the mine that the Government is supporting – the same mine experts say will kill the reef.

The Deloitte Access Economics report warned of serious economic consequences for Australia unless more is done to protect the reef.

The report valued the Adani Carmichael Mine at just $21 billion.

Not only is the World-Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef valued higher than the Adani Mine, but it also has 64,000 jobs directly and indirectly linked to it, contributing more than $6.4 billion to Australia’s economy each year.

Although a fiercely contested figure, Adani, on the other hand, claims 10,000 direct and indirect jobs are linked to it, is expected to contribute $203 million a year during construction and $270 million a year in production.

Opponents of the mine say it could be the death warrant for the reef.

According to the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), emissions from energy derived from coal are the primary threat to the reef, with warming ocean temperatures responsible for mass coral bleaching.

“It’s just a disturbing statement to hear from our Federal Environment Minister,” said ACF campaigner Basha Stasak. “Our governments seem to refuse to acknowledge the reality of the situation. It’s a choice – it’s coal or it’s coral and we are going to have to pick.”

Climate scientist Professor Will Steffen, from the Climate Council, agrees: “We’re gambling with this priceless global asset if we persevere with any new fossil fuel developments – and there’s no room for exceptions here.”

Yet the Government still supports the mine, with Federal Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg claiming Adani’s planned mine is “300km inland … in a dry, dusty part of Queensland” and if Australia doesn’t do it someone else will.

“If Australia vacates this field, not only will we be forgoing billions of dollars’ worth of export income and thousands of jobs domestically, but somebody else will sell that coal into India and the impact on the environment could be worse in terms of emissions,” he said.

Mr Frydenberg also claims that Australian coal is cleaner than that from other sources.

Greenpeace says that putting a dollar value on the reef misses the point, adding that “we have an inescapable moral responsibility to save it for us, and for future generations – regardless of its economic value”.

Although the report says it’s important for the Government to shape policy around the environment, it may help to understand the value of nature in economic terms:

“Valuing nature in monetary terms can effectively inform policy settings and help industry, government, the scientific community and the wider public understand the contribution of the environment, or in this case the Great Barrier Reef, to the economy and society.”

The Great Barrier Reef is a bigger employer than companies such as Telstra, Qantas, National Australia Bank and oil and gas companies and protecting its future should also be in line with the Government’s jobs and growth mantra.

Add to the fact that the Climate Institute’s national Climate of the Nation survey, published on Tuesday, revealed that 71 per cent of 2660 respondents say that climate change is indeed occurring with 57 per cent saying that human activity is the main cause. The survey also revealed that 96 percent of respondents want Australia’s primary energy source to be renewable.

It seems a no-brainer, and yet, in regards to climate change and coal mining, the Government continues to prove that it has no brain – or at least a one-track mind.

Do you think it’s time the Government valued our environment over its fascination with coal? Does the dollar value of (and jobs linked to) the Great Barrier Reef make you see its significance in a different light? Do you agree with placing an economic value on the environment and the Great Barrier Reef in particular?

Related articles:
Places to visit before they vanish
Finkel report: what will it cost you?
A grim future for the Reef

Leave a Reply

Exit mobile version