UNESCO Great Barrier Reef ‘in danger’ listing unlikely

Barrier reef avoids UNESCO 'in danger' label

UNESCO has stopped short of declaring the Great Barrier Reef “in danger” in a draft decision hailed by the Australian government.

“We’re committed to better protecting our precious Great Barrier Reef – and this decision is evidence of that,” Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek said in a statement.

The United Nations’ Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation has been considering whether the reef should be added to its “List of World Heritage in Danger”. A conclusion is due in September.

The draft decision released on Tuesday said “significant progress” had been made by the current and former Australian governments but warned the reef “remains under serious threat and urgent and sustained action … is essential in order to improve [its] long-term resilience”.

“We will always support the Australians who rely on a healthy environment for their jobs,” Ms Plibersek said.

“That’s why I have raised this issue every time I have met with UNESCO and my counterparts on the World Heritage Committee.”

Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef Minister Leanne Linard said the state government had taken strong action to protect the reef, consulting with scientists, industry and conservationists.

“The draft recommendation to not list the reef as being ‘in danger’ is an acknowledgement of the work we have been doing,” she said.

A UN mission that toured the reef in March 2022 concluded Australia’s efforts had not been enough to protect the reef from climate change, poor water quality, harmful fishing activities and other threats.

A decision on whether to inscribe the reef on the list of in danger sites will require the backing of the World Heritage Committee when it meets in September.

Australia has been told to submit a progress report on the implementation of its commitments by February 2024.

The Australian Marine Conservation Society said the reef “faces the fight of its life, a fight that is set to get harder with a predicted El Nino increasing the likelihood of marine heatwaves and coral bleaching.

“Our governments have been given six more months to tackle the threats to the Great Barrier Reef, and they must take full advantage of that time for the sake of our reef, its $6 billion tourism industry and the 64,000 jobs it supports,” the AMCS said.

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