Protect the Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is Australia’s most iconic asset. It is World Heritage-listed and internationally recognised for its natural beauty, size and biological diversity. It is a recreational destination for Queenslanders and visitors alike. It is also a critical economic driver with a high brand value.

Protecting the environmental, social, and economic value of the Great Barrier Reef drives many of the Queensland Government’s environmental policies and activities. However, climate change and deteriorating water quality continue to threaten the Great Barrier Reef and its ecosystems.

The government's priorities:

Reduce Queensland’s contribution to climate change

Progress towards the 2030 CO2 reduction target

Source: State and Territory Greenhouse Gas Inventories, 2016.

The cumulative impacts of climate change, including warmer weather leading to coral bleaching and increased severe weather events, such as cyclones, are leading to declining reef health.

Tackling climate change is not something Queensland can do alone—this requires a global effort. However, it is crucial that Queensland does its part to address the impacts of climate change and ensure the long-term viability of environmental icons such as the Great Barrier Reef.

What do we want to achieve?

A 30% reduction in net greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

Interpreting the results

There has been a 14% reduction in net greenhouse gas emissions in Queensland from 2005 to 2016. Achieving the 30% reduction target by 2030 will require a concerted national and international effort from governments, industry and the wider community.

Government taking action

The Queensland Government continues to deliver major programs to reduce Queensland’s contribution to climate change and achieve our target.

Government's actions

The Queensland Government’s Climate Change Response includes 2 key strategies to transition to a low carbon, clean growth economy and adapt to the impacts of a changing climate:

The Queensland Government has also made a suite of additional commitments that will contribute to reducing Queensland’s carbon emissions. These include:

  • Providing $50 million in capital funding towards the development of Queensland’s own baseload solar thermal plant with storage.
  • Investment of $97 million over 3 years for the solar photovoltaic (PV) systems and energy efficiency measures across Queensland state schools as part of the Advancing Clean Energy Schools (ACES) program.
  • Establishing a new, publicly-owned, clean energy generation company (CleanCo) which will have a strategic portfolio of low and no emission power generation assets.
  • $1.73 million to help Great Barrier Reef islands cut their emissions. The funding will assist islands to develop business cases for solar, wind, and gas generation.
  • A $3 million contribution to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation's $14 million, five-year program to boost the climate resilience of the Great Barrier Reef islands.

Improve water quality

Progress towards the water quality targets

*Target calculated from a re-cast 2013 baseline.

Source: Australian and Queensland Government 2017, Great Barrier Reef Report Card 2016, State of Queensland.

The quality of water flowing into the reef lagoon from the land has deteriorated dramatically over the past 150 years.

Excess nutrients, fine sediments, and pesticides from agricultural run-off and other industries pose the biggest risk to reef water quality. Sediment smothers corals and reduces the amount of light reaching seagrasses and other plants, affecting their growth and survival as well as the survival of the marine animals that depend on them for food and shelter.

Improving water quality now will help to build resilience of the reef to emerging threats.

What do we want to achieve?

By 2025 contribute to a:

  • 60% reduction in anthropogenic end-of-catchment dissolved inorganic nitrogen loads
  • 25% reduction in anthropogenic end-of-catchment loads of sediment.

Interpreting the results

Excess sediment and nutrients (such as dissolved inorganic nitrogen) are harmful to corals and seagrass. Modelled pollutant load reductions are based on reported improvements in land management practices. As at 2015–16, there was a 21% reduction in the load of dissolved inorganic nitrogen and 14% reduction in the load of sediment, since the 2008–09 baseline.

Government taking action

The Queensland Government funds Great Barrier Reef water quality improvement initiatives through the Queensland Reef Water Quality Program, which is supported by a five year investment plan of more than $261 million.

Government's actions

The Queensland Government works in partnership with Australian and local governments, industry, natural resource management groups, research, community, and private organisations to deliver water quality initiatives to protect the reef.

The Queensland Government has committed to significant initiatives in the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan and the Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan 2017–2022.

  • The Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan was released by the Australian and Queensland governments in March 2015 and is the overarching framework for protecting and managing the reef until 2050.
  • The draft Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan 2017–2022 guides how industry, government, and the community will work together to improve the quality of water flowing to the Great Barrier Reef. The plan addresses all land-based sources of water pollution including run-off from urban, industrial, and public lands; while recognising the majority of pollution comes from agricultural activities.

Case study

Last reviewed
8 June, 2018
Last updated
18 July, 2018