Oz protests downgrade of its Great Barrier Reef

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The Great Barrier Reef was worth an estimated $4 billion a year in tourism revenue for the Australian economy before the coronavirus pandemic. AFP

Australia on June 22 said it will strongly oppose a UNESCO plan to list the Great Barrier Reef as “in danger” over deterioration caused by climate change.

The UN body released a draft report on June 21 recommending the reef’s World Heritage status be downgraded because of its dramatic coral decline, after years of public threats to do so.

Environmental campaigners said the decision highlighted Australia’s lack of action to curb the carbon emissions which contribute to global warming.

Environment Minister Sussan Ley said Australia would challenge the move, accusing UN officials of backflipping on their assurances ahead of the World Heritage Committee’s 44th session in China next month, where the recommendation will be formally considered.

She told reporters in Canberra: “Politics have subverted a proper process and for the World Heritage Committee to not even foreshadow this listing is, I think, appalling.”

The UN body did not consider the billions of dollars spent attempting to protect the world’s largest coral reef, she added.

The committee’s draft report said “the long-term outlook for the ecosystem of the property has further deteriorated from poor to very poor”, referring to Australia’s move to downgrade the reef’s health status after back-to-back mass bleaching events in 2016 and 2017.

Placement on the UN body’s in-danger list is not considered a sanction. According to UNESCO, some nations have their sites added to gain international attention and help to save them but it is seen as a dishonour by others. AFP