In her 16th July 2008 media release, GREEN PAPER ON CARBON POLLUTION REDUCTION SCHEME RELEASED, Senator, the Hon. Penny Wong, Minister for Climate Change and Water, stated that:
“Climate change threatens … icons like the Great Barrier Reef, the Kakadu wetlands and the multi billion dollar tourism industries they support.”
The selection and juxtaposition of these two icons is, at the very least, strategically interesting. The Great Barrier Reef is widely celebrated as one of the natural wonders of the world, epitomising environmental importance for Australians. Kakadu, in a similar vein, is resplendent with fauna and flora and resounds of antiquity and Aboriginal spirituality. It is a logical companion to the Reef and particularly if the Minister’s intention was to capture the breadth and diversity of Australia’s environmental concerns.
However, the Reef is thought to be around a half-million years old and quite obviously has endured temperature variations throughout this period. With an even greater perseverance, Kakadu is believed to have formed around 140 million years ago, with the prominent escarpment wall forming sea cliffs and the Arnhem Land plateau a flat land above the sea.
Yet, despite these environmental assets enduring against the ravages of turbulent climate variation, their imminent environmental collapse is foreshadowed alongside the devastating implication of multi-billion dollar economic losses, unless dramatic changes are implemented as outlined in the Federal Government’s draft Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.
But what of other environmental icons, like the World Heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest? Surely it is even more vulnerable to these forecast catastrophic climate changes? Being coastal, it is more proximal to inundation than Kakadu, it is more primitive, has a far richer biodiversity and endemism and attracts more than twice the annual visitation and expenditure.
Perhaps its ecological interaction with the contiguous Great Barrier Reef is spatially less inclusive of the broader environmental diversity between the Reef and Kakadu. Nevertheless, localised carbon pollution should be more of a concern in the Daintree rainforest with its greater vulnerabilities and visitation, as well as its more abundant income-earning performance. Not that Kakadu should be under-valued, but it seems entirely incongruous that for all the urgency for this necessary intervention, that nothing is being done to protect the Daintree rainforest from carbon pollution emitted from hundreds of concurrently running engine generators.
It has been conservatively estimated that the federal government will raise ten billion dollars in 2010 from the sale of permits to emit greenhouse gases. Every cent of this estimated bounty will purportedly be used to help Australian households and businesses adjust to the emissions trading scheme and to invest in clean energy options.
Perhaps the federal Government might be persuaded to embrace the Daintree World Heritage rainforest as a priority pilot project to remove the unnecessary emissions of so many generators.