The Australian environment minister said that her government would lobby against any UN panel recommendation that the Great Barrier Reef be designated as a World Heritage Site that is “in Danger”.
UNESCO stated that the largest coral reef ecosystem in the world has been severely affected by global climate change, and the rising oceans.
Frequent bleaching events pose a threat to the reef. This includes four in the past seven years, and one during a La Nina phenomenon which usually brings cooler temperatures.
Bleaching occurs when the water gets too warm. Corals expel the colorful algae in their tissues, and become white.
Officials from both the UN cultural agency as well as the International Union for Conservation of Nature issued Monday’s report warning that the largest coral reef in the world is at risk if there is not “ambitious and rapid” climate action.
This report recommended that the Great Barrier Reef be made endangered. It was based on a 10-day expedition in March that took place off Australia’s northeast coast. The reef was included in the 1981 World Heritage List.
Canberra has been lobbying for years to keep reef, which contributes A$6.4bn to the economy (PS3.6bn to the GDP), off endangered list. This could result in losing its heritage status, which would diminish its appeal for tourists.
Before COVID-19, it was visited by around 2 million tourists each year. This provided employment for 64,000 people.
Tanya Plibersek, Environment Minister, stated that the report was a reflection of Australia’s former Conservative government. She was elected out of office in May after nine years at power.
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She stated that the new center-left Labor party government has already responded to many of the concerns raised in the report, including climate change.
Ms. Plibersek stated to reporters that she would make it clear to UNESCO “that there is no need for the Great Barrier Reef to be singled out in this manner” by announcing an endangered listing.
She explained that UNESCO has in the past singled out a particular place as being at risk because they wanted more government investment or government action. Since the change of government, both have occurred.”
Australia’s new government has committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 43% by 2030, compared to 2005 levels.
Only 26% to 28% reductions were promised by the previous government before the end of the decade.
Independent Great Barrier Reef Foundation stated that the recommendation to include the reef on the endangered list was premature.
Anna Marsden, managing director, said that “The Great Barrier Reef, she’s a wonder, and she’s had her challenges, but in any case she’s certainly not on her last legs.”