Australia’s under-pressure Great Barrier Reef is worth A$56 billion (US$42.45 billion) and as an ecosystem and economic driver is “too big to fail,” a study said yesterday.
The World Heritage-listed reef is the largest living structure on Earth and its economic and social value was calculated for the first time in the Deloitte Access Economics report commissioned by the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.
Using economic modeling, it said the reef is worth A$29 billion to tourism, supporting 64,000 jobs.
The “indirect or non-use” value — people who have not yet visited the reef, but know it exists — was estimated at A$24 billion, with recreational users such as boaters making up the rest.
The study, based on six months’ analysis, comes as the reef suffers an unprecedented second consecutive year of coral bleaching due to warming sea temperatures linked to climate change.
It is also under pressure from farming run-off, development and the crown-of-thorns starfish, with the problems compounded this year by a powerful cyclone pummeling the area.
Great Barrier Reef Foundation director Steve Sargent said the study showed that no single Australian asset contributed as much to international perceptions of “Brand Australia.”
“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,” he said.
The study included a survey of 1,500 Australian and international respondents from 10 countries that found people value the reef for a range of reasons — due to its importance for tourism, but also the belief that Australia would not be the same without it.
Canberra has been criticized for backing a huge US$16 billion coal project by Indian mining giant Adani near the reef, which environmentalists warn would harm the natural wonder.
Australian Minister for the Environment and Energy Josh Frydenberg insisted protecting the reef was a priority.
“It is critical for reefs worldwide, including the Great Barrier Reef, that international efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are effective,” he said in response to the study.
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