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Environmental Economics And Securing Policy

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Question:

Discuss about the Environmental Economics and Securing Policy.
 
 

Answer:

Introduction:

Environmental economics and policies regarding sustainable development have become a major issue in the world today. All the nations are now concerned about sustainability. Like rest of the world, Australia also has designed environmental protection legislations. One of the major issues in Australia’s environment is the damaging of the Great Barrier Reef. This is one of the most attractive natural wonders and the largest coral reef of the world. It is listed on the World Heritage List since 1981. It is not only admired for its beauty, but it presents a major biological diversity also. However, with time the reef is getting decayed and to protect the reef the Australian government formulated Reef 2050 long term Sustainability Plan by involving the science, society and government (Environment.gov.au. 2017).

The reef 2050 plan is a supporting plan to the original Act of 1975, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975. The main objective of that plan was to provide long term conservation and protection of the environment and its biodiversity and heritage value of the Great Barrier Reef (Dss.gov.au. 2017). The other objectives were to spread the awareness of the region among the people by opening a park, where people could come and enjoy, as well as learn more about the national heritage. In March 2015, the Australian government announced the Reef 2050 plan. This aims to increase the sustainable activities revolving around the reef to give more protection to save the nature’s wonders for future generation. Hence, the Australian government developed this environmental legislation, which is set for the next 35 years (Environment.gov.au. 2016).

 

The most significant threat to Great Barrier Reef is the climate change. According to the governmental organization, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), the other major threats to the reef are poor water quality coming from land, effects of coastal development projects, increase in fishing activities, ocean acidification, oil in the water, storms, and coral bleaching. However, the reef scientists say that the damage is due to the cumulative effect of many such reasons. The increase in the number of visitors to the park and increasing pollution are also responsible for the damage of the reef (Gbrmpa.gov.au. 2017).

The reef 2050 plan is developed primarily to combat the challenges of the survival of the reef. It is important to reduce the pollutant activities and other negative externalities to conserve this national heritage and for doing so, formulation of legislation is the best way to stop the damaging activities as well as increasing the awareness (Business.gov.au. 2017). In Reef 2050 plan, the government plans to spend more than AUD 2 billion in the next decade. This plan brings together the government, industrialists, scientists, researchers, commercial and residential owners, and the society.  The major actions of this plan comprise of management of the reef, which includes (Authority, G.B.R.M.P. 2015);

  • reducing industrial wastes and pumping the wastages into the ocean,
  • banning of disposals in the park region,
  • prohibition of any further development or expansion of new ports in the nearby region,
  • improvement in the plans for shipping and fishing in the reef region,
  • providing extra protection to the turtles and dugongs,
  • reducing the pesticides load, sediment load, nitrogen load in the agricultural sector to reduce the water pollution,
  • appointing a Minister from Queensland for the supervision of the Great Barrier Reef.

The government has planned for more than AUD 2 billion for the above mentioned plan. Along with that, it has created a trust fund of AUD 40 million for research and management of improving water quality and reducing pollution (Legislation.gov.au. 2017).

 

Success of the policy so far:

There has been significant progress towards betterment of the condition of the reef after the implementation of the Reef 2050 plan. This policy targets integration of different levels of supervision of the environmental factors to improve the condition of the reef. This is a policy for sustainable development. Hence, the government has put substantial amount of investment in various segments of this policy. So far, the researchers found that the quality of the water entering the reef has improved significantly due to better land management. Five big industrial ports had proposed 18 months ago, to dispose of capital scoured constituents in the marine park. The government has brought it down to zero through regulations. They also put permanent ban on disposal of capital dredged materials in the reef region and put restrictions on the expansions of the ports (Dale et al. 2016).

The first major attempt of the plan was to improve the water quality entering the reef from the land. Since 2003, there has been implementation of Reef Water Quality Protection Plan, which helps in reducing water pollution. 35 major river basins drain the 424,000 sq km of the coastal regions of Queensland and this huge amount of run-off goes in to the reef. The land based run-offs include industrial and residential wastages. The developmental plan helped to reduce the water pollution significantly. The pesticide load is reduced by 28%, sediment load by 11%, nitrogen load by 10% (Hughes, Day and Brodie 2015)

To reduce the effects of climate control, the government has taken the effort of reducing carbon-di-oxide emission. If it is kept at or below 380 parts per million, then the corals would be moderately vulnerable and they would dominate the reef. Other measures include (Wallace et al. 2015):

  • controls on coastal developmental projects,
  • reducing ocean acidification,
  • controlling the population of coral eating Crown of Thorns starfish with the help of organic nitrogen injections,
  • managing shipping movements by reducing number of ships per day and focusing on the new technologies for ship tracking and giving alerts for ship breakdown,
  • reducing fishing activities and encouraging ecologically sustainable practices of fishing, providing net-free zones for fishing, and application of knowledge, science and technology (Brodie and Waterhouse 2016).
 

Recommendation:

The Great Barrier Reef is a natural wonder, and not a museum piece, which stays in a constant state. Hence, the preservation and conservation of the reef requires effort of a different level. Although the Australian government has invested a huge money and effort for the reduction of further damage to the Great Barrier Reef, and the plans are yielding good results, still there is scope for improvement (Woodford 2014).

  • Empowering the GBRMPA: the power of GBRMPA should be increased for the best interest of the park. It does not have much authority required for dealing with government or industry for various issues. The authority’s culture should be rebooted with more power to take steps for the betterment of the reef.
  • Disallowing the controversial issues in the marine ecosystem: there are many controversial issues such as dredging and waste mismanagement from the industries, which affect the reef. Such issues should be handled on a priority basis. Dumping of waste near the reef is more controversial than development of protection zones, hence, that should be addressed first.
  • Pushing the country to develop renewable source of energy and reduce the usage of coal: coal extraction must be reduced to save the reef. Renewable source of energy is now more preferred than coal. Coal is not only used domestically, but is exported also. The dependency on coal should be reduced by using renewable source of energy (Grech, Pressey and Day 2015).
  • Tighter control on agriculture: the beef cattle grazing industry and sugarcane production use many pesticides, which needs to be controlled.
  • Pushing the establishment of the management plans for Coral Sea Marine Reserve: this is the world’s largest single gazetted marine park. The Coral Sea Marine Reserve and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park are two neighboring parks and the marine species and ecosystems are dependent on each other. Hence, the management should be efficient to protect these ecosystems from commercial fishing (Pandolfi 2016).
  • Making fishing control more strict to maintain the ecosystem of the reef: this is a critical aspect for both commercial and non-commercial fishers. The actions taken by the commercial and recreational fishers to remove predatory fishes have helped in the maintenance of the ecosystem of the reef. Such actions should be taken more frequently.
  • The standard of ships passing through needs to be improved: the GBRMPA states that the shipping traffic consists of around 2000 ships making approximately 7000 voyages. With the increase in the mining activities in Queensland, this traffic is expected to rise. Hence, the standard of the ships passing through the reef region must be of improved quality so that wreckage, breakdowns, oil spills can be reduced. A huge oil spill can wreck havoc on the reef.
  • Restore and enhance the budget for marine science research with high priority: many reef specialists and scientists are not employed in the research projects for the reef. To utilize the full potential of the researchers and have latest scientific techniques to save the reef, more budget should be allocated and more projects should be launched for extensive research on the reef.
  • Boosting the research for measures of climate control: more research works should be undertaken to boost the measures of climate control. It is important to ensure the survival of the corals and scientists are interrogating the methods if the heat resistant corals can be translocated from much warmer waters to regions that are more southern. This might increase the chance for their survival (Pandolfi 2016).
 

Conclusion:

The Great Barrier Reef is a national identity of Australia. It is the world’s largest system of coral reef. It is situated on the east coast of Queensland, Australia, in the Coral Sea. Two great constant changes of the reef are destruction and regeneration. It is never same all the time. Hence, preserving this natural wonder is extremely important for a sustainable future. The Australian government has implemented many policies over the years to protect and conserve this structure. Along with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act of 1975, it has introduced Reef 2050 Long Term Sustainability Plan for more and better protection of the reef. It has put more efforts in the research and science to invent and improve ways for handling climate change, water quality, fishing activities, shipping traffic, ocean acidification, and coral bleaching in and around the reef region. There has been much progress so far, however, there are still ways that can be practiced and implemented to save the coral reef.

 

References:

Authority, G.B.R.M.P., 2015. Great barrier reef outlook report 2015.

Brodie, J. and Waterhouse, J., 2016. Great Barrier Reef (Australia): A Multi-ecosystem Wetland with a Multiple Use Management Regime.

Business.gov.au., 2017. Environmental legislation. [online] Available at: https://www.business.gov.au/info/run/environmental-management/environmental-legislation [Accessed 26 Apr. 2017].

Dale, A.P., Vella, K., Pressey, R.L., Brodie, J., Gooch, M., Potts, R. and Eberhard, R., 2016. Risk analysis of the governance system affecting outcomes in the Great Barrier Reef. Journal of Environmental Management, 183, pp.712-721.

Dss.gov.au., 2017. Environmental Policy. [online] Available at: https://www.dss.gov.au/about-the-department/policies-legislation/departments-corporate-policies/environmental-policy [Accessed 26 Apr. 2017].

Environment.gov.au., 2016. Highlights of the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan. [online] Available at: https://www.environment.gov.au/marine/gbr/publications/highlights-long-term-sustainability-plan [Accessed 26 Apr. 2017].

Environment.gov.au., 2017. The Great Barrier Reef. [online] Available at: https://www.environment.gov.au/marine/gbr [Accessed 26 Apr. 2017].

Gbrmpa.gov.au., 2017. Legislation, regulations and policies - GBRMPA. [online] Available at: https://www.gbrmpa.gov.au/about-us/legislation-regulations-and-policies#leg_spec_gbrmp [Accessed 26 Apr. 2017].

Grech, A., Pressey, R.L. and Day, J.C., 2015. Coal, Cumulative Impacts, and the Great Barrier Reef. Conservation Letters.

Hughes, T.P., Day, J.C. and Brodie, J., 2015. Securing the future of the Great Barrier Reef. Nature Climate Change, 5(6), pp.508-511.

Legislation.gov.au., 2017. Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975. [online] Available at: https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2016C00551 [Accessed 26 Apr. 2017].

Pandolfi, J., 2016. Five things we can do right now to save the Great Barrier Reef. The Guardian. [online] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/commentisfree/2016/jun/13/five-things-we-can-do-right-now-to-save-the-great-barrier-reef [Accessed 26 Apr. 2017].

Wallace, R., Huggins, R., Smith, R.A., Turner, R.D.R., Garzon-Garcia, A. and Warne, M.S.J., 2015. Total suspended solids, nutrient and pesticide loads (2012–2013) for rivers that discharge to the Great Barrier Reef–Great Barrier Reef Catchment Loads Monitoring Program 2012–2013. Department of Science. Information Technology and Innovation. Brisbane, p.3.

Woodford, J., 2014. 10 steps to save the Great Barrier Reef. The Guardian. [online] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/oct/28/10-steps-to-save-the-great-barrier-reef [Accessed 26 Apr. 2017].

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