Great Barrier Reef is worth £33bn and is 'too big to fail', say experts

'Any failure to protect this indispensable natural resource would have profound impacts not only to Australia but around the world,' said Al Gore

Ben Chapman@b_c_chapman
Monday 26 June 2017 11:33
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The authors estimate that the reef is worth A$29bn to tourism and has a brand – or indirect – value of A$23.2bn
The authors estimate that the reef is worth A$29bn to tourism and has a brand – or indirect – value of A$23.2bn

If Australia’s Great Barrier Reef were to be put up for sale, it would likely be valued at a higher price than most of the UK’s biggest companies.

According to a new report, the endangered reef off the coast of Queensland, is worth a staggering A$56bn (£33bn) to Australia’s economy, underscoring the importance of saving it from rising ocean temperatures and mass coral bleaching.

That figure makes it 12 times more valuable than the Sydney Opera House, according to the analysis conducted by Deloitte, which aimed to estimate the “economic, social and icon value” of the reef. In one year alone, the world’s largest living structure contributes A$6.4bn to Australia's economy and supports 64,000 jobs, according to the research.

More must be done to combat the “unprecedented” damage to the 1,400 mile reef, the report says. Warming waters caused by man-made climate change have caused up to 95 per cent of the reef to be hit by coral bleaching in recent years, which increases disease susceptibility.

“This report sends a clear message that the Great Barrier Reef - as an ecosystem, as an economic driver, as a global treasure - is too big to fail,” said Steve Sargent, director of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, which was set up to safeguard the future of the World Heritage site and commissioned the report.

“As the largest living structure on earth and one of the world's most complex and diverse natural ecosystems, the Great Barrier Reef is justifiably considered priceless and irreplaceable.”

The report’s authors calculated that the reef directly supports 39,000 jobs, which is more than some of Australia’s biggest employers such as Telstra, Qantas and National Australia Bank. It’s also more than the jobs provided by the country’s entire oil and gas extraction industry.

The authors estimate that the reef is worth A$29bn to tourism and has a brand – or indirect – value of A$23.2bn. That value is based on Australians who have not visited the reef but value knowing it exists.

Recreational visitors to the reef such as divers have put a value of $A3bn on their visits, Deloitte said.

For this reason the Great Barrier Reef must be considered “too big to fail”, the report said.

The research is based on a six-month study of scientific and economic sources, Deloitte surveyed more than 1,500 people from 11 countries for the report.

Lead author John O'Mahony said the findings showed that the reef has “incredible value” for biodiversity, jobs and Australia’s global reputation.

Environmental campaigner and former US presidential candidate Al Gore wrote in the report: “Any failure to protect this indispensable natural resource would have profound impacts not only to Australia but around the world.”

In May, scientists warned that the recent damage to the reef may be irreversible.

In a recent communique, an expert panel set up by the Australian government said they were “united in their concern about the seriousness of the impacts facing the Reef and concluded that coral bleaching since early 2016 has changed the Reef fundamentally”.

“There is great concern about the future of the Reef, and the communities and businesses that depend on it, but hope still remains for maintaining ecological function over the coming decades,” it said.

“Members agreed that, in our lifetime and on our watch, substantial areas of the Great Barrier Reef and the surrounding ecosystems are experiencing major long-term damage which may be irreversible unless action is taken now.”

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