Australia opposes UNESCO ‘in danger’ status for Great Barrier Reef

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Australia’s government said Tuesday it will strongly oppose a proposal from UNESCO for the Great Barrier Reef to be labelled as “in danger.”

The UNESCO draft recommendation says the Great Barrier Reef should be placed on a list of world heritage sites that are “in danger” and urges Australia to take “accelerated action at all possible levels” on climate change.

The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s most extensive coral reef ecosystem and was hit particularly badly by record-breaking temperatures that triggered mass bleaching in 2016 and 2017.

The UN cultural body’s World Heritage Committee made a draft decision to recommend the listing with “insufficient first-hand appreciation of the outstanding science-based strategies” in place to protect and manage the reef, Australian Environment Minister Sussan Ley said in a statement.

“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,” Ley said.

Ley said she and Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne held a call with UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay to express Australia’s dissatisfaction with the process.

Ley said Australian officials were stunned by the “back flip” on previous assurances from the UN that such a recommendation would not be made for the reef ahead of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee meeting to be hosted in China in July.

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