Australia Rejects UN Downgrade of Great Barrier Reef Over Climate Change Risk

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  • Bloomberg Quicktake: Now published this video item, entitled “Australia Rejects UN Downgrade of Great Barrier Reef Over Climate Change Risk” – below is their description.

    The Great Barrier Reef: an awe-inspiring natural habitat that is home to an array of sea life.

    The network of 2,500 reefs covering 348,000 square kilometres (134,000 square miles) off Australia’s northeast coast has been World Heritage-listed since 1981.

    But its health is under increasing threat from climate change and rising ocean temperatures.

    Now, a draft report from the U.N. World Heritage Committee is recommending that the ecosystem be added to UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger.

    The report released yesterday (Monday 21 June 2021) says that “there is no possible doubt” that the network of colorful corals off Australia’s northeast coast was “facing ascertained danger.”

    The report found the site had suffered significantly from coral bleaching events caused by unusually warm ocean temperatures in 2016, 2017 and last year.

    The listing could shake Australians’ confidence in their government’s ability to care for the natural wonder and create a role for UNESCO headquarters in devising so-called “corrective measures,” which would likely include tougher action to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.

    Any downgrade of the reef’s World Heritage status could reduce tourism revenue for Australia because fewer people would be attracted to a degraded environment and dead coral.

    Reef cruise operators say the report is wrong and that tourists continue to be awed by dazzling coral and multicoloured fish. But some tourists say the reef had seemed more colourful during visits decades ago.

    Australian government officials have voiced their anger at the report.

    “The Foreign Minister and I had a late-night meeting with the Director General of UNESCO last night and we made very clear our strong disappointment, even our bewilderment, that our officials have been blindsided in the way that they have,” says Sussan Ley, Australia’s Environment Minister.

    In 2014, Australia was warned that an “in danger” listing was being considered rather than being proposed for immediate action.

    Australia had time to respond by developing a long-term plan to improve the reef’s health called the Reef 2050 Plan.

    The committee said this week that plan “requires stronger and clearer commitments, in particular towards urgently countering the effects of climate change”.

    UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger covers 53 sites.

    Australia, which is one of 21 countries on the committee, will oppose the inclusion of the Great Barrier Reef.

    It claims the report is flawed and does not the use the latest data.

    “The reef is an icon internationally and we are here to fight for the reef and we are here to challenge the decision when it comes up for final consideration in the World Heritage committee,” says Ley.

    The World Heritage Committee will consider the question in China next month (July).

    The report comes as Australia faces mounting international pressure to commit to a target of zero net carbon emissions by 2050.

    Observers say the swearing in on Tuesday of new Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, who opposes action on climate change that increases prices, signals Australia is likely to set less ambitious targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

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