Australia is seeking corporate sponsors to fund a new Great Barrier Reef conservation initiative, sparking fears that big companies could invest in the endangered marine site to ‘greenwash’ their poor environmental track records.

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The world’s biggest coral reef is facing increasing dangers stemming from climate change, including a historic global coral bleaching event driven by warming oceans. But environmental conservationists, including members of the Australia Greens party, say corporate sponsorship is no solution to the crisis.

“The most alarming part of this proposal is the potential for companies which are threatening the reef to buy positive reef branding to try to avert the reputational damage they deserve,” Greens Senator Larissa Waters said on Wednesday, pointing out that the Australian government had also just given the green light to energy giant Adani to build the country’s largest coal mine, ignoring widespread scientific opposition.

“It’s a bit rich for the government to be cooking the reef with its coal obsession, and then wanting rich individuals to bail it out,” she said, adding that the government should be using its own money to protect the marine site rather than looking for private investments.