United Nations experts say Australia’s Great Barrier Reef should be listed as a World Heritage Site that is “in danger”.
In a new UNESCO-commissioned report on Monday, the panel said the world’s biggest coral reef ecosystem was being affected significantly by climate change and that its resilience has been “substantially compromised”.
Australia has lobbied for years to keep the reef – which contributes 6.4 billion Australian dollars ($4.3bn) to the economy – off the endangered list for fear it could bring an end to the ecosystem’s World Heritage status and reduce its attractiveness to tourists.
Prior to COVID-19, about 2 million tourists visited the reef located off Australia’s northeast coast every year, according to official data, providing jobs for 64,000 people.
Australian environment minister Tanya Plibersek acknowledged that the reef was under threat but said putting it on UNESCO’s “World Heritage in Danger” list would be a step too far.
“We’ll clearly make the point to UNESCO that there is no need to single the Great Barrier Reef out in this way,” she told reporters.
She added that the report was a reflection on Australia’s previous conservative government, which was voted out of office in May after nine years in power, and said the new centre-left Labor Party government had already addressed several of the report’s concerns, including action on climate change.
Since taking office, the Labor government has pledged to spend 1.2 billion Australian dollars ($800m) in coming years to protect the reef. The parliament in September passed legislation for net zero emissions by 2050.
Plibersek also noted that her government had cancelled the previous administration’s plans to build two major dams in Queensland state that would have affected the reef’s water quality.
“If this World Heritage Site is in danger, then most World Heritage Sites around the world are in danger from climate change,” she said.
Source – AlJazeera