CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia’s environment minister said Tuesday his government will lobby against UNESCO adding the Great Barrier Reef to a list of endangered World Heritage Sites.
Officials at the United Nations cultural agency and the International Union for Conservation of Nature released a report on Monday warning that without “ambitious, swift and sustained” climate action, the world’s largest barrier reef is in danger. .
The report, which recommended bringing the Great Barrier Reef to endangered status, followed a 10-day mission in March to the famous barrier reef system off the northeast coast of Australia that was added to the World Heritage List World Cup in 1981.
Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek said the report was a reflection on Australia’s previous Conservative government, which was voted out of office in May’s election after nine years in power.
He said the new centre-left Labor Party government had already addressed many of the report’s concerns, including action on climate change.
“We will clearly point out to UNESCO that there is no need to isolate the Great Barrier Reef like this” with an endangered listing, Plibersek told reporters.
“The reason UNESCO has identified a place at risk in the past is because they wanted to see more government investment or more government action, and since the change of government, both have happened,” he added.
The new government has legislated to commit Australia to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 43% from 2005 levels by 2030.
The previous government only committed to a reduction from 26% to 28% by the end of the decade.
Plibersek said his government has also committed A$1.2 billion ($798 million) to take care of the reef and has canceled plans by the previous government to build two large dams in Queensland state that would have affected quality of coral reef water.
“If the Great Barrier Reef is in danger, then every barrier reef in the world is in danger,” Plibersek said. “If this World Heritage site is in danger, then most World Heritage sites around the world are in danger from climate change.”
The report said the Australian federal government and Queensland authorities should adopt more ambitious emissions reduction targets in line with international efforts to limit future warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial times.
The minor Green party, which wants Australia to cut its emissions by 75% by the end of the decade, has called on the government to do more to fight climate change in light of the report.
Jodie Rummer, a marine biologist at James Cook University in Townville who has worked on coral reefs for more than a decade, has backed calls for Australia to aim for a 75% reduction in emissions.
“We are taking action, but that action needs to be much quicker and much more urgent,” Rummer told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
“We cannot claim to be doing everything we can for the reef at this point. We are not. We need to send that message to the rest of the world that we’re doing everything we can for the reef and that means we need to take immediate action on emissions,” she added.
Feedback from Australian officials, at both federal and state levels, will be reviewed before Paris-based UNESCO submits an official proposal to the World Heritage committee.
In July last year, Australia’s former government won enough international support to postpone a UNESCO attempt to downgrade the reef to “endangered” due to damage from climate change.
The Great Barrier Reef accounts for approximately 10% of the world’s coral reef ecosystems. The network of more than 2,500 coral reefs covers 348,000 square kilometers (134,000 sq mi).
Australian government scientists said in May that more than 90% of Great Barrier Reef corals examined in the past year had been bleached, in the fourth mass event in seven years.
The bleaching is caused by global warming, but this is the first reef bleaching event during a La Niña weather pattern, which is associated with colder Pacific Ocean temperatures, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Authority said in its report. annual.
Bleaching in 2016, 2017 and 2020 damaged two-thirds of the coral.
Coral bleaches as a response to heat stress, and scientists hope most coral will recover from the latest event.