Australia fights UN downgrade of Great Barrier Reef's health

Australia said on Tuesday it would fight against plans to downgrade the Great Barrier Reef's World Heritage status because of climate change, while environmentalists hailed a proposal from the United Nations World Heritage Committee.

Australia fights UN downgrade of Great Barrier Reef's health
Australia fights UN downgrade of Great Barrier Reef's health

Australia said on Tuesday it would fight against plans to downgrade the Great Barrier Reef's World Heritage status because of climate change, while environmentalists hailed a proposal from the United Nations World Heritage Committee. The committee said in a draft report on Monday that "there is no doubt" that the network of colorful corals off Australia's northeastern coast "was facing danger." The report recommends that the world's most extensive coral reef ecosystem be added to UNESCO's list of World Heritage in Danger, which includes 53 sites, when considered by the World Heritage Committee. Question in China in July.

The listing may shake Australians' confidence in their government's ability to take care of the natural wonder and create a role for UNESCO Headquarters in devising so-called "corrective measures", including potentially reducing Australia's greenhouse gas emissions. Tough action will be involved. Any downgrade of the reef's World Heritage status could reduce the tourism revenue that the natural wonder generates for Australia as fewer tourists will be attracted by the poor environment and dead coral.

Reef cruise operators said the reports were inaccurate and that tourists continued to fear the shiny coral and multicolored fish. But some tourists said the rock looked more colorful than they did when visiting decades ago. Environment Minister Susan Ley said she and Foreign Minister Maris Payne had called on UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay to express the government's "strong disappointment" and "apprehension" over the proposal. Australia, which is one of the 21 countries on the committee, would oppose the listing, Lay said.

“This decision was flawed. Clearly there was politics behind it,” Lay told reporters. “Clearly those politics have distorted a due process and it is not even foreseeable for the World Heritage Committee to list this , I think, terrifying." The network of 2,500 reefs covering 348,000 square kilometers (134,000 sq mi) has been World Heritage-listed since 1981. But from climate change and rising sea temperatures Its health is at risk.The report found that the site was significantly damaged by coral bleaching events due to unusually warm ocean temperatures in 2016, 2017 and last year.

Australian Marine Conservation Society environmental advisor Imogen Jethoven welcomed the committee's recognition that "Australia has not done enough on climate change to protect the future of the reef." The reef will become the first site to be included on the List of World Heritage in Danger, mainly for reasons of climate change, Zethoven said. "It will be a very important step for the World Heritage Committee to make this decision and we really hope it does because it will open up a lot of potential change," she said.

Richard Lake, a spokesman for environmental group WWF, said listing the reef as a threat would be "a real blow" to many Australians. In 2014, Australia was warned that the "in danger" list was being considered, rather than proposed. for immediate action. Australia had time to respond by developing a long-term plan to improve the health of the reef called the Reef 2050 Plan. The committee said this week that the plan "needs strong and clear commitments, particularly to urgently combat the effects of climate change."

Lay said climate change policy debate should be confined to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. "I know ... that climate change is the biggest threat to the reef and in no way am I going to shy away from that recognition and countries including European countries. About what policies different countries should have on climate change. I have strong views and I understand that too, but this is not the conference in which to have those conversations," Lee said, referring to the conference on World Cultural and Conservation. natural heritage.

Observers say the swearing-in on Tuesday of new Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, who opposes action on climate change that drives up prices, signals Australia is setting a less ambitious target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. is likely to. Terry Hughes, director of the Australian Research Council's Center for Excellence in Coral Reef Studies, said Australia's refusal to hit a net zero carbon emissions target by 2050 has left the country "completely outlandish". "This UNESCO draft decision is pointing the finger at Australia and saying: 'If you're serious about saving the Great Barrier Reef, you need to do something about your climate policies,'" Hughes told Australian Broadcasting Corp. Told.