Greenpeace Australia Pacific BLOG

UNESCO has made its call on the status of the Great Barrier Reef. What does it mean, and what now?

Posted on July 02, 2015 at 10:44 by Greenpeace Australia Pacific

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Over the past month, passionate people in the Greenpeace movement like you have been sending a strong message to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee: if we want to protect the world’s largest Reef for future generations, destructive coal expansion cannot go ahead in the precious Great Barrier Reef area.

And until the threat from coal and climate change is removed, the Great Barrier Reef remains in danger.

What was UNESCO’s decision?

The UNESCO World Heritage Committee meeting in Bonn yesterday confirmed that the Reef is still under intense scrutiny and its future hangs in the balance. The Australian Government has been given 18 months to take meaningful action to protect the Reef.

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What does the Australian government have planned for its probation period?

The Australian Government has approved the construction of the devastating Carmichael mega-mine. Not only would this be the largest mine Australia has ever seen, its coal would produce a shocking 130 million tonnes of deadly carbon dioxide emissions every year.

If that’s not enough – its plans would increase coal transported straight through our Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, having a potentially disastrous impact on the Reef’s coral and animals from collisions, accidents, spills and coal dust.

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Until the threat of massive coal mine and port expansion is removed, any claims by the Australian Government that it is protecting the Reef are a sham. The government has plan to protect the Reef – but it will not stop the building of a massive “carbon bomb” coal mine in the Galilee Basin, nor the expansion of the Abbot Point port to service it. Its plan doesn’t even properly address the biggest threat to the Reef – climate change.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott and the Australian Government are alone on the world stage in their relentless support for the coal industry and refusal to take seriously the threat of climate change. It’s time for Australian leaders to show some courage, cancel the Carmichael megamine licence and invest in real, sustainable jobs for the Reef.

There’s no reason to go ahead with these Reef-wrecking plans

The science is clear: there can either be coal expansion or a healthy Reef – but not both. And scientists aren’t the only ones who chose coral over coal – an opinion poll in Australia showed that 85% of Australians would rather see more protection for the Reef than the expansion of coal.

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If that’s not enough – Reef-wrecking coal projects are also a terrible investment. The coal industry is in global decline, with orders and prices falling massively and projected to continue to do so. Eleven international financial institutions have said that they will not invest in the proposed Carmichael mine and Abbot Point port expansion.

It seems obvious that the project is a bad idea – but it’s not over yet. There are still banks and financial institutions around the world that could put money into this disastrous mine and port.

The millions of people around the world who are supporting the global campaign to save the Reef will not forgive any bank that back its destruction because they were too short sighted or too deeply in the pocket of the coal industry to make the right choice. We’re not giving up on the Reef – and neither should you. Join the movement to save the Reef now.

Have your say: What should Australia’s food labelling laws look like?

Posted on July 02, 2015 at 09:49 by Nathaniel Pelle

We’ve been making noise about seafood labelling for over a year now, and we’re slowly making progress.

Following our campaign last summer, a Senate Committee recommended that Australian ‘Country of Origin Labelling’ (CoOL) laws should apply in restaurants, pubs, clubs and cafes, all of which are currently exempt from labelling.

And after the famous berry and tuna scandals earlier this year, the Government set up its own taskforce to look into our CoOL rules. This taskforce has a particular focus on confusing statements like “Made in Australia from local and imported ingredients” – which, let’s face it, doesn’t really tell you much.

Politicians are expected to act on these matters within months, and before they do you have the chance to have a say what you want. The Commonwealth Department of Industry has created this public survey. We hope you can take a moment to fill it out – and if you’re stuck, check out our helpful guide to completing it below. It closes at midnight this Friday – so hurry!

Stop eating in the dark. Take action today.

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Why is seafood labelling important again?

To choose sustainable fish, customers need to be able to differentiate among the seafood products they are looking to buy. Clear and accurate labelling is vitally important to give consumers the information needed to make an informed, sustainable choice.

Consumers should know:

  • what species we are eating so they can know if it is from a healthy population
  • where the fish was caught so they can select fish from places that have good management, and
  • how the fish was caught or if it was farmed so they can judge the impacts on the wider environment.

Let’s focus on where it was caught. For this process, the Government is only looking at the ‘where it’s from’ bit. Here’s why knowing where your fish is from is important:

Australian consumers often assume that they’re buying Australian fish most of the time. The reality is they are mainly not. While Australian fisheries are far from perfect, management in our Commonwealth fisheries is of a high standard relative to some of the places we import our fish from, so it’s usually a better choice to buy local if you can.

Not everything imported is a bad choice by any means and better labelling will allow good imports to stand out from the crowd. But some imported products may be subject to very little environmental management and could have been produced under health and labour standards that are rightly considered unacceptable in Australia.

This tends to make them cheaper, so often they outcompete Australian-caught fish in the market – especially when people are confused about what they’re getting. The simple fact is there are major gaps in our current laws, which means you’re eating in the dark.

Take a few minutes (it took our oceans campaigner, Nat, 4 minutes, but he’s done this sort of thing before) to fill the Government’s survey and just maybe we’ll get the reforms we want.

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Need help?

Most of the questions are multiple choice things like ‘are you a member of the public?’ and ‘do you prefer pictures or words?’ – we’ll leave those up to you – but here are a few tips to the trickier questions:

Question 3 is about how important you think country of origin labelling is – we think you should tick the box that says ‘very important’, obviously (actually not that tricky).

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In Question 4 you get to explain why you think it’s important – here’s what Nat wrote, for example (he won’t mind if you copy and paste it):

Country of origin labelling is important because food, especially seafood, is produced to different standards of sustainability, ethics, and quality in different parts of the world. As a consumer I want to know that the money I am spending is going to businesses and individuals in countries or regions where they are more likely to be engaged in practices that meet my personal preferences.

My preferences include: protecting the environment; supporting local fishing jobs; supporting certain communities abroad; and ensuring that no one has been mistreated in the production of my food. Finally, if there is ever a food contamination issue, I want to be assured that food products are readily traceable back to their source.

Simply differentiating between Australian products and imported products is inadequate. Without rules requiring accurate labelling that tells me exactly where the major ingredients in my food are from, whether I’m at a restaurant or preparing my food at home, my preferences cannot be met.

In Question 13 you get to make a final comment, here’s Nat’s answer again:

Accurate Country of Origin Labelling is important for all food, but seafood is a special case. Fisheries products are the most highly traded food commodity globally and there can be very significant differences in harvesting and production standards from one country to the next. Unlike other food commodities, wild-caught seafood is the only remaining significant food-source that can be considered a genuine common resource so it’s in my interest that they are managed sustainably wherever they come from.  Fisheries are also uniquely connected to the environment because the way seafood is harvested directly impacts on supportive ecological systems and their ability to naturally replenish and be utilised into the future – that in turn affects fishing jobs.  Knowing what fish we’re eating and where it came from is essential if we’re to informed choices on sustainability.

European law recognises the need for accurate labelling, and requires that all seafood is marked with both the country it is imported from and the ocean area it was caught in.  Australian consumers deserve the exact same level of information.

Over seventy per cent of our seafood is imported.  In many cases, it is harvested or produced unsustainably and unethically, by Australian standards. Accurate seafood labelling is therefore fundamental to ensure consumers like me get to make informed choices, protect public health, encourage sustainable use of fisheries resources, and ensure food security.

Thanks for taking action to bring about better seafood labelling laws in Australia. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments section below – and make sure to share this post with your friends so they can get involved as well!

PS: Make sure you do it by midnight Friday, or Nat will turn into a pumpkin fish.

Beyond reduce, reuse, recycle: The 9 ‘R’s of a sustainable life

Posted on June 26, 2015 at 16:48 by Rashini Suriyaarachchi

When it comes to recycling, Australians have a great reputation. In the past few decades, recycling has gone mainstream, with a two or three bin system now available for most people at home, in their workplace, and out and about in public.

According to Planet Ark, 85% of Australians now think that recycling at home is the right thing to do. That’s not surprising, because the last two generations have had a brilliant anti-waste motto drilled into them: reduce, reuse, recycle.

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Reduce, reuse, recycle is great. They tell us to use less, find ways to use things we have again an in different ways, and to help turn what we can’t use into something new. But what about sustainability beyond the three ‘r’s? When problems of mass-production, excessive marketing, and overconsumption are so systemic – we need to go further to fix them. (more…)

The Rainbow Warrior is here!

Posted on June 26, 2015 at 12:56 by Shani Tager

Exciting news – the Rainbow Warrior is in town and you’re invited to come on board!

She’s just arrived in Brisbane and the crew can’t wait to show you around our iconic ship at an Open Day tomorrow (Saturday 27th June). We’re terribly sorry for the short notice but we’ve only just been able to confirm her schedule – she’s a working ship and sometimes her whereabouts changes on a day-to-day basis!

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Back in 2013, the Rainbow Warrior graced our shores on a campaign tour to save the Great Barrier Reef. She couldn’t be back at a more important time for our Reef. In a matter of days, UNESCO will decide whether to keep a close watch on our international icon. With our government making feeble promises to protect it while aggressively promoting the coal industry, we have to keep our eyes on the Reef.

Our Rainbow Warrior Open Day is a great day out for family and friends. You’ll meet the crew in the control room and learn about the high-tech features on board our custom-built, eco-friendly ship.

There’s no need to book – just come on down (with sunscreen and a camera!), join in the fun and spread the word to save our Reef.

Come aboard the Rainbow Warrior

When: 10am – 4pm, Saturday 27 June, 2015
Where: RiverGate Marina and Shipyard, Wharf A, Rivergate Place, Murarrie Brisbane

Cost: FREE

She’s an asset to our global environmental campaigns and her mission in Queensland is critical: to shine a spotlight on our beautiful Great Barrier Reef and in the days before the UNESCO decision, tell them to keep a close watch on it.

We hope to see you on board.

6 myths about risks to the Great Barrier Reef, busted!

Posted on June 24, 2015 at 13:36 by Shani Tager

When it comes to convincing Australia and the world that they’re trying to protect the Great Barrier Reef, the Abbott government is having a hard time. We suspect that has something to do with their plans to go ahead with massive coal port and mine expansion in the face of serious threats to the Reef’s Continue reading →

Underwater GIF party: You’ve never seen the Great Barrier Reef like this before

Posted on June 19, 2015 at 11:59 by Rashini Suriyaarachchi

It’s no secret that the Great Barrier Reef is a beautiful place. People come from all around the world to Australia to experience the Reef – snorkelling and diving deep below its surface to see its beauty with their own eyes. But the Great Barrier Reef is changing. In the last 30 years, 50% of Continue reading →

Millions of eyes are on the Reef

Posted on June 17, 2015 at 14:14 by Isobel Marasigan

The Great Barrier Reef is priceless for so many reasons. It’s millions of years old, it’s the world’s largest reef ecosystem, and it’s home to more plants and animals than any other ecosystem. What is not to love about The Great Barrier Reef? But if people from all around the world don’t come together, destructive Continue reading →