The Australian Government appears to be on a collision course with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) after telling the global body that it will strongly oppose a draft World Heritage Committee recommendation that the Great Barrier Reef be singled out for ‘in danger’ listing.
In an overnight call to the Director General of Unesco, Audrey Azoulay, Australia’s environment minister Sussan Ley and foreign minister Marise Payne cited what they called “Australia’s world-leading reef management and its $3-billion investment in reef protection”.
Australian officials have apparently been stunned by a backflip 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.
They say they are concerned about a deviation from normal process in assessing World Heritage Property Conservation status.
Decision appears to have been based on a desktop review
Minister Ley said that the draft decision had been made on the basis of a desktop 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,” Ley noted.
She said Australia had expressed its dissatisfaction with the process that is being followed by Unesco and made it clear it would contest what was a flawed approach that had 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,” Ley noted.
“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.
‘Best-managed reef in the world’ should not be singled out
“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.”
Earlier this month, Australian-based marine conservationists welcomed the announcement from the Queensland government that it will expand the Renewable Energy Fund from $500-million to $2-billion to support the growth of manufacturing powered by publicly-owned renewable energy.
“This is great news for our Great Barrier Reef. Unlocking clean renewable energy and storage is key to tackling climate change, [which is] our Reef’s greatest threat,” David Cazzulino of the Australian Marine Conservation Society said at the time.