Australia ditches greenhouse gas emissions target

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's decision to drop the emissions target has been seen as an attempt to keep his job. It comes as some lawmakers are urging another minister to challenge the leadership.

Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Monday abandoned plans to create legislature limiting greenhouse gas emissions, in hope of easing tensions among conservative lawmakers.

Turnbull said while most government lawmakers supported the target of reducing Australia's greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent below 2005's levels by 2030, he probably would not be able get the measure through parliament.

Read more: Study values Great Barrier Reef in the billions

"Even with strong support in the party room, if a small number of people are not prepared to vote with the government on a measure, then it won't get passed," Turnbull told reporters.

Nature and Environment | 27.04.2017

Opposition leader Bill Shorten accused Turnbull of walking away from policy in order to save his job.

"[It's] an energy policy that is about one thing only for the Turnbull Government: it's to save Mr Turnbull's job. It's just about appeasing Mr Turnbull's enemies in the Government so he can keep his job," the Australian Broacasting Corporation (ABC) quoted Shorten as saying. 

Another spill?

Turnbull's announcement comes amid a push from some government lawmakers who want Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, a close ally of Turnbull's predecessor Tony Abbott, to challenge for the leadership.

Dutton tweeted his loyalty to Turnbull on Saturday, saying the prime minister had his support and that he backed the government's policies.

Abbott overthrew Turnbull as leader of the conservative Liberal Party in 2009 over differences in energy policy, but Turnbull ousted Abbott from the prime minister's office in 2015 in a leadership vote by government lawmakers concerned by a dip in opinion polls.

Turnbull's government has fallen behind the center-left opposition Labor Party in most opinion polls since the last election in 2016. Australians are due to hold a general election early next year.

When asked about a possible leadership challenge from the right wing of his Liberal party, Turnbull attempted to quell the notion.

"Can I say, I have, I enjoy the confidence of the Cabinet and of my party room," Turnbull said.

Turnbull would next month become Australia's longest serving prime minister since John Howard, having held the office for three years and four days.

Time running out to save the world's coral reefs

Trouble in paradise

Some 2,500 scientists, policymakers and managers came together in Honolulu in June 2016 for the world's largest summit dedicated to the future of coral reefs. With coral reefs threatened by global warming, participants at the 13th International Coral Reef Symposium are calling for a joint rescue effort.

Time running out to save the world's coral reefs

World is watching

The event gathered guests from 97 countries, including the presidents of Palau, Micronesia, and the Marshall Islands. Coral reefs are a key source of income in those countries, mostly through tourism.

Time running out to save the world's coral reefs

Too warm for comfort

The Pacific nations are worried about the future of their tourist hotspots, as coral reefs face so-called "bleaching" due to rising sea temperatures. "If our coral reefs are further degraded, then our reef-dependent communities will suffer and be displaced," leaders of Palau, Micronesia, and the Marshall Islands said in an open letter.

Time running out to save the world's coral reefs

Corals in crisis

Bleaching happens when coral is stressed by hot ocean waters or other changes in the environment. In response, corals may release tiny symbiotic algae which drains them of color. More importantly, bleaching affects their ability to feed and reproduce.

Time running out to save the world's coral reefs

Pale as death

Severe or prolonged bleaching might kill off corals entirely. Scientists have detected bleached coral in the past two years in oceans around the world. They expect the process to continue thought 2016.

Time running out to save the world's coral reefs

Giant from Down Under

The 2,300-kilometer-long (1,429-mile-long) Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest coral reef system and its largest living structure. It is also among Australia's main tourist attractions, generating around $3.9 billion (3.5 billion euros) annually.

Time running out to save the world's coral reefs

Tough times for the Great Barrier Reef

Almost one-half of the coral in the reef's northern third have died in the past three months, according to James Cook University professor Terry Hughes. The most affected area is remote and unpolluted, with very little fishing and no coastal development. "That's an absolute catastrophe," Hughes said. "There's nowhere to hide from climate change."

Time running out to save the world's coral reefs

Fighting for hope

Despite the bad news, scientists claim the problems can be managed with proper funding and political backing. "We are not ready to write the obituary for coral reefs," Professor Hughes said. The scientific community at the conference pledged to work with leaders across the world in order to "curb the continued loss of coral reefs."

law/msh (AP, Reuters)