Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and coal

From Global Energy Monitor
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In 1981 the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland was added to the World Heritage List of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). "It contains the world’s largest collection of coral reefs, with 400 types of coral, 1,500 species of fish and 4,000 types of mollusc. It also holds great scientific interest as the habitat of species such as the dugong (‘sea cow’) and the large green turtle, which are threatened with extinction," UNESCO states.[1]

Since the Great Barrier Reef was designated World Heritage, the coal export industry in Queensland has boomed with massive further expansions of both coal and liquefied natural gas (LNG) from coal seam gas projects proposed or approved. Much of the current proposed coal and LNG expansion is proposed in northern Queensland with a series of proposed new coal and LNG export terminals within or requiring ships to travel through the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

World Heritage Committee investigates potential coal port and other impacts on reef systems

In June 2012 the UNESCO released its report cautioning that the establishment and expansion of ports for coal and other projects could lead to the Great Barrier Reef being added to the 'In Danger' list[2]

Queensland Premier Campbell Newman: "We are in the coal business."

Following the release of the report the Queensland Premier, Campbell Newman stated that while concerned about the impact of port developments on the reef "we are not going to see the economic future of Queensland shut down ... We are in the coal business. If you want decent hospitals, schools and police on the beat we all need to understand that," he said. "Very clearly there needs to be a proper strategy, orderly progression of these developments. We shouldn't be building a multitude of new ports and we won't be."[3]

After prominent reporting of his "we are in the coal business" comment, the Queensland Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection Andrew Powell issued a media statement titled "Newman government taking care of the Great Barrier Reef". The opening paragraph of the release stated that "Powell has reinforced the Newman Government’s commitment to protecting the world’s largest living organism."[4]

Articles and resources


  1. "Great Barrier Reef", United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, accessed June 2012.
  2. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, "World Heritage Committee: Thirty-sixth session Saint-Petersburg, Russian Federation, 24 June – 6 July 2012: Item 7B of the Provisional Agenda: State of conservation of World Heritage properties inscribed on the World Heritage List", June 1, 2012, pages 23-28.
  3. Stephanie Peatling and Rachel Browne, "Queensland puts coal before coral", Sydney Morning Herald, June 3, 2012.
  4. Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection, The Honourable Andrew Powell, "Newman government taking care of the Great Barrier Reef", Media Release, June 2, 2012.

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