World Heritage Committee rejects proposed UNESCO In Danger listing for the Great Barrier Reef

23 July 2021

Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley has welcomed the support of an overwhelming majority of nations at the 44th session of the World Heritage Committee which has tonight (AEDT) backed Australia’s concerns over the UNESCO assessment process for the Great Barrier Reef.

After a week of face-to-face meetings in Europe to detail Australia’s position to Committee members, Minister Ley formally represented Australia’s case to the World Heritage Committee meeting from Australia this evening with consensus from all members. Nineteen nations (including Australia) from the 21 member Committee spoke in support.

Australia has reaffirmed its $3 billion commitment to protecting the Reef and supporting the work of reef communities, reef managers, marine scientists, Traditional Owners and the 64,000 Australians who depend on the Reef economy.

“This has never been about Australia hiding from the challenges facing the Reef or the pressures of climate change, it has been about ensuring a fair and transparent process for the Reef and the people who work tirelessly to protect it,” Minister Ley said. 

“Our concern was always that UNESCO had sought an immediate ‘In Danger Listing’ without appropriate consultation, without a site visit and without all the latest information, and it is clear that this process has concerned not only Australia but other nations as well.

“The World Heritage Committee’s endorsement of Australia’s position will give reef managers, marine scientists and land managers the ability to demonstrate the success of the outstanding work that is taking place across the Reef.

“Crucially, tonight’s decision will allow the World Heritage Committee to develop a framework that ensures all properties, including the 83 identified through the World Heritage process as being at risk from climate change, to be treated in the same way.”

Minister Ley said that Australia had been candid and forthright in its Reef Outlook reports, but that those reports had also demonstrated the Outstanding Universal Value of the Reef (its basis for World Heritage listing) remained intact.

“We will continue to work with UNESCO and the World Heritage Committee to protect the long-term future of the Reef and with the Queensland Government in ensuring that the strategies under the Reef 2050 plan are delivering the best possible outcomes for the Reef,” Minister Ley said.

Special Envoy for the Great Barrier Reef Warren Entsch, who hosted a number of Australian based Ambassadors on the Reef recently, said that the decision simply represents a fair go for the Reef.

“All we have asked is that people take the time to come here and see the Reef first-hand,” the Special Envoy said.

“You can’t just rely on reports, you need to spend time with the amazing people who are out there working on the Reef every day and see the fantastic results they are achieving.”