Tanya Plibersek says environment ‘front and center’ in Australia at UN ocean conference | oceans

Australia’s new environment minister, Tanya Plibersek, received a rousing welcome in Lisbon at the UN ocean conference after she flagged five new blue carbon projects and said that “under Australia’s new government, the environment is in the foreground”.

Plibersek opened his contribution to the conference by telling delegates: “For those of you who don’t follow Australian politics very closely, we just had an election, there is a new government, the whole world has exchange.”

Loud applause followed. She responded to the claim, noting, “It looks like some of you are following Australian politics – thank you.”

Session host Kristian Teleki, global director of the oceans program at the World Resources Institute and head of friends of ocean action for the World Economic Forum, noted that there had been “a incredible progress in such a short time. time” and said, “Welcome, Australia.

Australia’s stance on climate change and wider environmental issues, including the oceans, has been regularly criticized internationally over the past 10 years because the Coalition was viewed by many friends and allies as a laggard. .

Plibersek said the Albanian government would unveil five new blue carbon projects this week that are expected to include helping developing countries protect the health of their oceans.

“These projects will restore mangroves, salt marshes and seagrasses across our country,” the environment minister said in Lisbon. “They will help increase carbon sequestration, marine diversity and mitigate flooding.”

Plibersek told the conference Australia’s view was that there was no prospect of saving the environment and the oceans without targeted action on climate change. “Ambition is our only option,” the minister said.

She told delegates that Australia had already updated its medium-term emissions reduction target with the UN. With the new parliament opening a month away, Plibersek said bringing forward legislation giving effect to the 43% target would be “one of our first acts as a new government”.

As well as increasing climate ambition, Plibersek said Labor aims to double the number of Native Rangers by the end of the decade and learn traditional ways of caring for the land. and the sea.

“For more than 65,000 years, Indigenous peoples in Australia have cared about the land and sea – ‘country’ being much more than its physical properties,” Plibersek said. “Australia and the world can learn a lot from their example.”

Australia would also be active in the Pacific to support blue carbon projects and share the latest blue carbon science and accounting data, she said.

The ocean conference is co-hosted by the governments of Kenya and Portugal. This contribution was part of a joint declaration on the creation of a global coalition for blue carbon. In a separate session on plastics in the oceans, Plibersek committed Australia to signing on to the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment before the end of 2022.

In an interview with Guardian Australia ahead of her departure for Lisbon, Plibersek said she wanted Australia, which has one of the largest marine parks in the world, to play a global leadership role in protecting the oceans. The Great Barrier Reef has suffered four episodes of massive coral bleaching since 2016 and scientists say 99% of coral reefs are at risk of being lost if average heating reaches 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

Last week, the Australian Conservation Foundation launched a legal bid to stop a $16 billion gas development in Western Australia, arguing the effect of its greenhouse gas emissions on the Great Barrier Reef would be important and should be assessed under national environmental legislation.

The lawsuit is an attempt to force Plibersek to assess the project under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act rather than the offshore energy regulator, the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s last major assessment included a section titled “The Great Barrier Reef is in Crisis”. He said the world’s largest coral reef was already being heavily affected by climate change, particularly warming oceans, which was leading to more frequent and severe bleaching.

But officials serving in the Morrison government at the time suggested in a meeting over the wording of an executive summary of the report that it should say the reef was “not yet in crisis” and that “the reefs coral reefs are under increasing pressure, but targeted action and management could reduce the risk.”

The Morrison government also successfully lobbied against UN scientific advice that the reef should be placed on a list of World Heritage Sites in Danger.

Australia received a second claim at the ocean conference, with French maritime expert and diplomat Olivier Poivre d’Arvor noting: “Thanks to new prime minister Anthony Albanese and his environment minister Tanya Plibersek, the Franco-Australian friendship is back. .” Albanese will meet French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris later this week.

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