The Australian government has declined the proposed open-cut coal mine situated less than 10 kilometers from the Great Barrier Reef on the Queensland coastline. This decision was made based on environmental laws and the potential risk of irreversible damage to the reef. The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system and a UNESCO World Heritage Site that hosts diverse marine life. Tanya Plibersek, the environment and water minister, confirmed that the potential risks of pollution and damage to the reef had significant and unacceptable impacts on the freshwater and fragile seagrass meadows in the area. During the public consultation period, the department received 9,000 comments regarding the mine. UNESCO has been urging the Australian government to protect the reef better, and the government has pledged AUD 1 billion ($700 million) towards conservation efforts, including water quality programs and climate adaptation measures.

Last year, because of climate change’s warming waters, the Great Barrier Reef experienced its sixth mass bleaching event. The current government, elected in 2022, promised to take more decisive action on climate change in a country that is still reliant on fossil fuels. Despite these promises, Australia’s climate policies are ranked as “insufficient” by Climate Action Tracker, and it is unlikely to meet targets to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.