Australia challenges UNESCO draft reef reccommendation

22 June 2021

Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley says that Australia will strongly oppose a draft World Heritage Committee recommendation that the Great Barrier Reef be singled out for ‘in danger’ listing, citing Australia’s world leading reef management and its $3 billion investment in reef protection.

Australian officials have been stunned by a back flip on previous assurances from UN officials that the Reef would not face such a recommendation prior to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee meeting hosted by China in July, and are concerned about a deviation from normal process in assessing World Heritage Property Conservation status.

Minister Ley said that the draft decision had been made on the basis of a desk top review with insufficient first-hand appreciation of the outstanding science -based strategies being jointly funded by the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments.

“The Great Barrier Reef is the best managed reef in the world and this draft recommendation has been made without examining the Reef first hand, and without the latest information,” Minister Ley said.

“In a call to the Director General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, with Foreign Minister Marise Payne overnight, I expressed Australia’s dissatisfaction with the process that is being followed.

“I made it clear that we will contest this flawed approach, one that has been taken without adequate consultation.

“This sends a poor signal to those nations who are not making the investments in reef protection that we are making.

“If it is being proposed on the basis of the very real threat of global climate change, then there are any number of international World Heritage Sites that should be subject to the same process.

“I agree that global climate change is the single biggest threat to the world’s reefs but it is wrong, in our view, to single out the best managed reef in the world for an ‘in danger’ listing.

“When a previous endangered listing was first foreshadowed under Labor in 2012, the Coalition drove the internationally renowned Reef 2050 plan to remove that threat, and that plan continues to set the benchmark in Reef management.”