Great Barrier Reef as 'in danger' list
The Great Barrier Reef should be added to a list of "in danger" World Heritage Sites, a UN committee recommended on 22 June 2021, prompting an angry response from Australia which said it had been blindsided by the move and blamed political interference.
- The long-term outlook for the world's biggest coral reef system had deteriorated and action was needed to counter the effects of climate change, said the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization committee, which sits under UNESCO.
- Australia has for years been battling to keep the Great Barrier Reef, a major tourist attraction that supports thousands of jobs, off the "in danger" list, a step that could potentially lead towards its eventual removal as a World Heritage Site.
- In 2015, its lobbying included hosting UNESCO World Heritage delegates on a trip to an unspoiled stretch of the reef, but since then, scientists say, the world's largest living ecosystem has suffered three major coral bleaching events due to severe marine heatwaves.
- A government source said Canberra believes China, which chairs the committee, is responsible for the move amid a souring of relations between the two countries.
- Australia is part of the committee, but by convention it will not able to vote if a consensus is unable to be reached.
- Australia's reliance on coal-fired power makes it one of the world's largest carbon emitters per capita, but its conservative government has steadfastly backed the country's fossil fuel industries, arguing tougher action on emissions would cost jobs.
- Relations between Canberra and Beijing soured last year after Australia accused China of meddling in domestic affairs, and worsened when Prime Minister Scott Morrison sought an independent inquiry over the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.