UN Warning on Great Barrier Reef Stuns Australia

Government to fight placement of World Heritage Site on UNESCO's 'in danger' list
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 22, 2021 7:01 AM CDT
Updated Jun 26, 2021 1:50 PM CDT

(Newser) – The UN's Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization wants the Great Barrier Reef added to a list of World Heritage Sites that are "in danger," while calling on Australia to address climate change with "accelerated action at all possible levels." Australia's government says it's "stunned" by and will "strongly oppose" the recommendation, which it sees as political, noting the agency previously assured the government it would not make such a move. The government committed some $2.2 billion to improve the health of the world's biggest coral reef system off Australia's northeast coast after UNESCO debated the 1,400-mile-long reef's "in danger" status back in 2017. But UNESCO, which raised concerns about Australia's slow progress in improving water quality in 2017, now says the government has failed to meet key targets in that area, per the BBC.

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Other sites have been added to the list due to pollution, insecurity, and war, reports the Guardian. If the recommendation is adopted on July 16, the Great Barrier Reef would be the first site placed on the list mainly due to the effects of climate change. The recommendation appears to back scientists and global leaders who say Australia isn't doing enough to address climate change. Scott Morrison's government has made no updates to the country's 2015 commitment to limit emissions to no more than 28% of 2005 levels by 2030. Counters Environment Minister Sussan Ley: "There are 83 natural World Heritage properties facing climate change threats so it's not fair to simply single out Australia." The move could hurt tourism, and the country at large, as the reef supplies some $4.8 billion to the national economy. (Read more Great Barrier Reef stories.)

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