Olympic surfing might be headed for the historic surfing capital of Europe. We have been aware of rumors for a long time, but now it’s official. Last week the local authority in Landes confirmed that there would be a joint application between Biarritz, Capbreton, Hossegor and Seignosse to host the Olympic surfing events in 2024.
In press release, the local government said “The Department of Landes, the community of communes MACS, Hossegor, Capbreton, Seignosse and Biarritz join together to present a joint application, within the historic heart of surf, to host the surfing events of the Paris Olympics 2024. This candidature offers the most beautiful playground in Europe with 30 kilometers of beaches, 15 world-famous spots, a 100% natural environment backed by indisputable know-how in organizing major world events.”
Nous avions tous les atouts sur la Côte Basque pour proposer une candidature Biarritz – Pays Basque pour les #JO2024. Bonne chance néanmoins à mes collègues élus qui ont décidé de soutenir les Landes pour obtenir les épreuves olympiques de surf. #WeSurf2024
However, there is competition, Sevran (a wave pool) and the Girondins of Lacanau near Bordeaux are both applying too. Additionally, this is not the biggest challenge to the Biarritz and Landes bid, it remains to be seen whether surfing is included as an Olympic sport at all in 2024. Whilst the sport will feature in Tokyo in 2020, the stamp of approval has not yet been given to surfing for 2024. To be certain, we need to wait until the Olympic bodies reflect upon the 2020 games, we will however be given a big clue when the specifications are released by the Olympic organisers in the summer of 2019.
That’s the conclusion of the latest five-yearly report from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, released on Friday. The report assessed literally hundreds of scientific studies published on the reef’s declining condition since the last report was published in 2014.
Looking to the future, the report said “the current rate of global warming will not allow the maintenance of a healthy reef for future generations […] the window of opportunity to improve the reef’s long-term future is now”.
But that window of opportunity is being squandered so long as Australia’s and the world’s greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise.
The evidence on the reef’s condition is unequivocal
A logical national response to the outlook report would be a pledge to curb activity that contributes to global warming and damages the reef. Such action would include a ban on the new extraction of fossil fuels, phasing out coal-fired electricity generation, transitioning to electrified transport, controlling land clearing and reducing local stressors on the reef such as land-based runoff from agriculture.
But federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley’s response to the outlook report suggested she saw no need to take dramatic action on emissions, when she declared: “it’s the best managed reef in the world”.
But rather than meaningfully tackle Australia’s contribution to climate change, the federal government has focused its efforts on fixing the damage wrought on the reef. For example as part of a A$444 million grant to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, the government has allocated $100 million for reef restoration and adaptation projects over the next five years or so.
It showed authorities have failed to reach water quality targets set under the Reef 2050 Plan – Australia’s long-term plan for improving the condition of the reef.
For example the plan sets a target that by 2025, 90% of sugarcane land in reef catchments should have adopted improved farming practices. However the report showed the adoption had occurred on just 9.8% of land, earning the sugarcane sector a grade of “E”.
So yes, the reef is definitely in danger
The 2019 outlook report and other submissions from Australia will be assessed next year when the UNESCO World Heritage Committee meets to determine if the Great Barrier Reef should be listed as “in danger” – an outcome the federal government will fight hard to avoid.
An in-danger listing would signal to the world that the reef was in peril, and put the federal government under greater pressure to urgently prevent further damage. Such a listing would be embarrassing for Australia, which presents itself as a world’s-best manager of its natural assets.
The outlook report maintains that the attributes of the Great Barrier Reef
that led to its inscription as a world heritage area in 1981 are still intact, despite the loss of close to half of the corals in 2016 and 2017.
But by any rational assessment, the Great Barrier Reef is in danger. Most of the pressures on the reef are ongoing, and some are escalating – notably anthropogenic heating, also known as human-induced climate change.
And current efforts to protect the reef are demonstrably failing. For example despite an ongoing “control” program, outbreaks of the damaging crown-of-thorns starfish – triggered by poor water quality – have spread throughout the reef.
The federal government has recently argued that climate change should not form the basis for an in-danger listing, because rising emissions are not the responsibility of individual countries. The argument comes despite Australia having one of the highest per capita emissions rates in the world.
But as Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise – an outcome supported by government policy – the continued downward trajectory of the Great Barrier Reef is inevitable.
Cover photo: A supplied image obtained Thursday, June 6, 2013 of holiday makers in the Great Barrier Reef, Tropical North Queensland, October 2008. ReefLive, a live 12-hour interactive online show about the reef, will be broadcast on YouTube from 10am (AEST) on Friday to coincide with World Ocean Day on Saturday. (AAP Image/Supplied by Tourism and Events Queensland, Richard Fitzpatrick) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY