SIR RICHARD BRANSON:
Well thank you very much. I was lucky enough about 20 years ago to bring my young children and family to the Great Barrier Reef, and we had the most extraordinary week. And when people say it's one of the ten great wonders of the world, it is one of the ten great wonders of the world.
It's what – apart from maybe the Opera House that we're standing in – it's what makes Australia famous, and it is what draws millions of people to come to Australia every year.
Over the last 20 years sadly things have gone in the wrong direction, and something has to be done about it. And as a sort of practical businessman, I just love the idea of what Greening Australia are planning to do.
There's something like a thousand gullies that come into the sea and then bring the silt and worse, the chemicals that have been put on the land by farmers into the sea, and into contact with the reef.
And that encourages predators on the reef to destroy the reef and grow, and does an enormous amount of damage to it.
So the idea of trying to turn those gullies into maybe into wetlands, or to grow grass and other things which will actually absorb the sediments is a lovely project, and obviously Virgin Australia are delighted to be supporting it.
The other challenge the reef has is one from global warming. We were delighted that the Australian Government signed up to COP21 in Paris, pledging that Australia would be carbon neutral by 2050, and also that 190 other countries also signed up to it.
And so hopefully the combination of revolution in green energy plus the work that Greening Australia are doing will go some way to hopefully saving the Great Barrier Reef for generations and generations to come.
Thank you very much.
Well thanks very much to Liz, to Gordon, to Sir Richard, and to everybody who is rightly interested in preserving, protecting, and improving not just one of Australia's great natural jewels, but the world's Great Barrier Reef.
In a way it's very fitting that we are here at the Sydney Opera House, one of the world's great cultural achievements, and in the same way the reef is a majestic site of immense, immense, deep emotional, environmental, economic, social value to the world.
So I really want to make these points briefly. Firstly, only a few years ago the reef was placed on the World Heritage Committee watch list, with the risk of it being declared in danger.
Only a few months ago, the World Heritage Committee, and I'm very pleased about this, looked at Australia's decision to ban forever dredge disposal in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, to put in place the Reef 2050 plan, to put in place the $2 billion plan in partnership with Queensland for funding of the reef.
And they decided not only should we not be listed ‘in danger’, not only should we no longer be on the watch list, but the chair of the committee declared Australia to be the global role model for our management of World Heritage natural properties in terms of the reef.
But there are challenges, and there are solutions. The two great challenges, as Sir Richard says, are climate change and water quality.
The answer to climate change has to be a global agreement, which isn't just committed but which is delivered. And we are working with every nation to make sure that happens, and only a few short months ago Australia helped bring together a 90 billion tonne reduction between now and 2050 through the Montreal Protocol.
We also played our role in helping to bring together the 2020 and 2030 agreements through the Paris process. But we must go further and deliver these outcomes in each and every country.
And so we will work to make sure that the nations of the world meet and beat our targets, I'm pleased that we're on track to meet and beat our 2020 targets, and similarly already on track for our 2030 targets.
But then we have to twin that with the work that is being done on the reef at home. And what we've seen today is an example of that.
Greening Australia has identified 1000 gullies. These gullies contribute to erosion, sediment, and nitrogen, pesticides running into the reef. We also need to rehabilitate the kidneys of the Marine Park system – the wetlands, which are fundamental to filtering and providing an environment that is tremendous for the breeding of our bird life and other coastal species.
So going forwards, we will match dollar-for-dollar every cent that Virgin Australia and Greening Australia have announced today.
But more broadly, we recently announced $150 million as part of a $460 million commitment we made over the last 2.5 years to improving water quality, to reducing sediment, and nitrogen and pesticide runoff.
So the strongest thing we can have is partnerships to reduce the runoff, to improve our gullies, and there are no better exemplars of that than Greening Australia.
And Gordon and Sir Richard, thank you for your commitment. At the end of the day, it's about working with the farmers, working with the community, working with the Indigenous population, and my deep and fundamental commitment is not just halting decline, but to improving the quality of the reef and runoff each successive decade between now and 2050.