Reef 2050 Long Term Sustainability Plan

The Reef 2050 Long Term Sustainability Plan (the Reef 2050 Plan) is identified as the overarching strategy for protecting and managing the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) through to 2050. Management of the GBR is a collective effort. As such, the Plan brings together and guides Governments, Traditional Owners, industry, research and community stakeholders on ways to sustain the GBR as a natural and living cultural wonder of the world.

The Reef 2050 Plan was first developed in 2015 and has undergone two reviews:

  • Mid-term review in 2018 in response to the coral bleaching events of 2016 and 2017 to ensure it effectively manages the impacts of climate change; and
  • Full review in 2020 to measure effectiveness and have regard to the latest scientific information released five-yearly (Outlook Report), which examines the GBR’s health, pressures, and likely future. It also involved:
    • Changes to the Plan’s vision, and structure and logic of the themes, outcomes and actions;
    • Consideration of emerging information and policies on climate change  and establishment of actions to further strengthen the resilience of the GBR;
    • Incorporation of adaptive management; and
    • Establishment of new objectives, management goals, and indicators to ensure that they are achievable, specific, measurable, adaptable and relevant to deliver the desired 2050 outcomes.

The revised Reef 2050 Plan (2018) delivered from the mid-term review focused on priorities for immediate attention that fill identified gaps from the Plan prepared in 2015, including:

  • Consolidating and updating progress on the actions of the Plan;
  • Identifying new actions to respond to the challenges of climate change and other pressures; and
  • Providing the basis for the comprehensive review of the Plan to be conducted in 2020.

The revised Reef 2050 Plan (2021) sets out five priority areas for action:

  • Limit the impacts of climate change by contributing to global efforts to reduce emissions and supporting the Reef and communities to adapt.
  • improve water quality by working with landholders, industries and communities to accelerate action to reduce the impacts from land-based activities.
  • Reduce impacts from water-based activities by strengthening partnerships with Reef industries and delivering strong marine park management.
  • Influence the reduction of international sources of impact to reduce marine debris entering the Reef from outside Australia and protect migratory species.
  • Protect, rehabilitate and restore Reef habitat, species and heritage sites by minimising impacts from disturbances and assisting with their recovery.

World Heritage Committee decisions

The Commonwealth Government considers the advice of the World Heritage Committee as part of its current and future management of the GBR, including the following decisions:

  • In June 2014, the World Heritage Committee considered the possible inscription of the GBR on the ‘List of World Heritage in Danger’ given the scale of major challenges facing the GBR as outlined in the Outlook Report (2014). In response, the Queensland and Commonwealth Governments developed the Reef 2050 Plan;
  • In July 2015, and in response to the Reef 2050 Plan and progress achieved by Australia, the World Heritage Committee recommended that the GBR not be placed on the ‘List of World Heritage in Danger’;
  • In July 2017, the World Heritage Committee expressed appreciation of the work undertaken to date on the implementation of the Reef 2050 Plan and encouraged an acceleration in ongoing action, in light of the coral bleaching events, to build the Reef’s resilience. The Committee did not recommend listing the Reef as ‘in danger’.
  • In July 2021, the World Heritage Committee:
    • Removed the draft decision to inscribe the GBR on the ‘List of World Heritage in Danger’;
    • Removed the associated requirements for corrective measures; and
    • Removed the pre-determined outcome for 2022 World Heritage Committee meeting to ascertain danger to the GBR and confirm its inscription the ‘List of World Heritage in Danger’.
    • Retained the request for a joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission.
    • Retained the request to submit to the World Heritage Centre a report on the state of conservation by 1 February 2022.

To inform each of the above decisions, the Commonwealth Government regularly reports to the World Heritage Committee on the state of the Reef and effectiveness of protections.


State party report

The latest State Party Report on the state of conservation for Australia’s Great Barrier Reef (responding to Decision 44 COM 7B.90 of the 2021 World Heritage Committee meeting) was published on 3 February 2022.

The Report provides a comprehensive update on measures, actions and condition of the Reef since Outlook 2019 was released. It confirms that Outstanding Universal Value of the Reef is intact, and Australia’s program of corrective measures outlined in the Reef 2050 Plan is working to protect the health and resilience of the Reef.


Reef 2050 governance

In line with the Great Barrier Reef Intergovernmental Agreement 2009, the Queensland and Commonwealth Government’s collaborate on the management of the GBR with the assistance of the following groups:

  • GBR Ministerial Forum;
  • Standing Committee of Officials;
  • Reef 2050 Executive Steering Committee;
  • Reef 2050 Advisory Committee; and
  • Independent Expert Panel.

The Reef 2050 Advisory Committee has been established to provide advice to the GBR Ministerial Forum on strategic reef policy matters, and implementation and ongoing review of the Reef 2050 Plan, including:

  • Implementation of Reef 2050 Plan actions;
  • Reef policy issues that require collaborative action across sectors;
  • Investment approaches and linkages across multiple investment sources (see Reef 2050 Investment Framework);
  • Communication and engagement plans to ensure information is provided to the community;
  • Stakeholder priorities for reef research and monitoring; and
  • Reviews of the Reef 2050 Plan at five yearly intervals (at a minimum).

QRC is a representative on the Reef 2050 Advisory Committee and is working with Governments and key stakeholders on implementation, and regular review, of the Reef 2050 Plan in this and other focused forums.

The protection of the GBR’s Outstanding Universal Value and responsible economic development is critical for all Australians, however, they are not mutually exclusive. As such, a risk management approach to the regulation of activities working alongside and in the GBR delivers benefits for all parties. As such it is critical that the resources sector is involved in the planning and implementation of GBR policy and actions to ensure positive environmental, social and economic outcomes are achieved.

QRC, through its membership on the Reef 2050 Advisory Committee, will continue to promote the resource sectors’ views and guidance on Reef 2050 Plan policy and actions.