The Unesco World Heritage Committee’s failure to officially declare the Great Barrier Reef ‘In Danger’ is a missed opportunity to shine a light on the Australian Government’s neglect of a natural wonder that remains at great risk due to the impacts of climate change, environmental group Greenpeace says.
The much-anticipated announcement was made late on Friday evening following a Unesco warning last month that the long-term outlook for the Reef had further deteriorated from ‘poor’ to ‘very poor’.
Greenpeace Australia Pacific CEO David Ritter said the Federal Government had abandoned its obligations to protect the Reef.
“Under the Unesco treaty, the Australian government promised the world it would do its utmost to protect the Reef – instead it has done its utmost to hide the truth,” he commented.
One of the most cynical lobbying efforts in recent history
“This is a victory for one of the most cynical lobbying efforts in recent history. This is not an achievement – it is a day of shame for the Australian Government.”
Despite the International Union for Conservation of Nature stating that the Reef “unambiguously” met the criteria to be declared a World Heritage site in danger, Australia’s lobbying efforts were successful and a majority of Unesco committee members did not support the listing.
“Imagine if the Australian Government put as much effort, time and money into protecting our natural wonders like the Great Barrier Reef through climate action, rather than playing politics and refusing to take action,” Ritter said.
“Climate change is the number one threat to the Great Barrier Reef – and the Australian government has no credible plan for cutting emissions, no climate target, and continues to promote and subsidise the mining and burning of coal, oil and gas that are the number one drivers of global warming.
“Jetsetting around the world, at great expense to taxpayers, to block a decision that would demand climate action is a slap in the face to all Australians who love and care about our beautiful Reef.”
Nineteen out of 21 committee members support Australia
Meanwhile, Minister for the Environment, Sussan Ley, has welcomed the decision.
After a week of face-to-face meetings in Europe to detail Australia’s position to Committee members, Ley formally represented Australia’s case to the World Heritage Committee meeting. Nineteen nations, including Australia, from the 21-member Committee spoke in support.
“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,” the Minister 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 … it is clear that this process has concerned not only Australia but other nations as well.”