Not long after the UK announced it would open up a new coal mine in Cumbria, Australia rejects plans for a new mine not far from the Great Barrier Reef.
This is a first for Australia. A positive step in the right direction. I expect there to be further rejections by governments across the world for new fossil fuel projects in the years to come.
Although this is good news for now, Australia has a long way to go.
The country is one of the world’s largest exporters of fossil fuels and needs to reduce emissions by three quarters by 2030 to play its role in helping keep temperatures below 1.5oC.
This particular decision has been based on environmental law. However, the Environment Minister, Tanya Plibersek said she would review applications on a case-by-case basis.
The proposed mine would have been located in the town of Rockhampton, less than 10 kilometres away from the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral reef system made up of 3,000 individual reefs stretching for over 2,300 kilometres.
Why are reefs so important?
There was a recent talk by Johan Rockström at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos. He spoke about the 16 tipping elements that regulate the Earth’s climate. The biospheres that support human life that could be pushed too far and start undermining society.
One of those tipping elements is the large coral reef systems.
Coral reefs are not just pretty features on the seabed for scuba divers to look at. They are one of the most sensitive ecosystems in the world. They are home to thousands of marine species. They protect our shorelines and they keep us fed.
It is believed that over 500 million people around the world directly rely on reefs for food, work and coastal protection.
The coral reefs are one of the ecosystems under threat from the continued use of fossil fuels. This move by Australia could be the start of a new wave of fossil fuel project rejections for the country.
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