Australia to Boost Ocean Climate Protection as Criticism Grows

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison pledged a further A$100 million ($77.5 million) to help advance the protection of ocean and coastal habitats amid growing international criticism over his government’s policies to battle climate change.

The initiative, to be formally announced in the May 11 annual budget, is set to boost the restoration of ocean ecosystems that can help draw carbon out of the atmosphere, as well enhance marine life protection, Morrison said in a statement Thursday.

Australia’s ocean economy supports 400,000 jobs and is projected to contribute A$100 billion each year, the prime minister said, acknowledging “the important role our oceans can play in our efforts to cut emissions.”

U.S. Rejects Australia’s Climate Strategy Ahead of Global Summit

The fresh deployment of funds aimed at improving the government’s report card on sustainability adds to a series of other similar green contributions made this week that have so far totaled more than A$1.1 billion, going to areas including hydrogen projects, and carbon capture and storage technologies.

Despite the reinvigorated push to his government’s green image, Morrison’s resistance to commit to hard emissions-reduction targets has met with disapproval abroad.

The criticism has sharpened before a keenly anticipated virtual climate summit of global leaders being led by U.S. President Joe Biden from Thursday. The White House rebuked the Australian leader for continuing to sidestep a net-zero emissions commitment by 2050 -- a decision that has made Australia a climate change outlier among most developed nations.

Morrison told reporters Wednesday that he will use his speech to Biden’s summit to focus on delivering “how” Australia will achieve net-zero emissions, not the “when.”

Australia is the driest inhabited continent on earth and is considered by many to be at vanguard of the impact of climate change. That position became frighteningly clear in 2020 when wildfires scorched an area of land almost the size of England, killing more than 30 people and wiping out an estimated one billion animals.

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