Great Barrier Reef: The UN panel, in its latest report, “noted with appreciation” the commitments and initial actions by the Australian government.
Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is not a site “in danger”, a UNESCO heritage committee said while warning that the world’s biggest coral reef ecosystem remained under “serious threat” from pollution and warming of oceans. In November, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization said that the reef should be put on the danger list after frequent coral bleaching events.
But the panel, in its latest report, “noted with appreciation” the commitments and initial actions by the Australian government. Australia has been attempting to keep the Great Barrier Reef off the list as it could lead to the site losing its heritage status resulting in dimming it as a tourist attraction. The reef contributes about A$6 billion ($4 billion) to the Australian economy and supports 64,000 jobs.
“The draft decision cites ‘significant progress’ being made on climate change, water quality, and sustainable fishing – all putting the reef on a stronger and more sustainable path,” Australian prime minister Anthony Albanese said, acknowledging that the UNESCO draft decision does not put the reef “in the clear”. More steps were needed to keep it off the endangered list, he said.
The Australian government has pledged A$1.2 billion to protect the reef. Among many decisions, he has also withdrawn federal funding for dams and denied permission for a coal mine that it said could have affected the reef.
What next for the Great Barrier Reef?
The UN panel asked the Australian government to submit a progress report by February 2024. The World Wide Fund for Nature-Australia said UNESCO could place the reef on the endangered list if the country’s government failed to show progress on existing commitments.
“UNESCO has kept the Australian and Queensland governments on probation. There’s an opportunity for Australia to lift its game before it is required to provide a progress report … next year,” Richard Leck, WWF-Australia Head of Oceans, said.