Australia has managed to keep the Great Barrier Reef off the Unesco list of endangered World Heritage for the time being. After an intensive lobby by the country to keep the world’s largest coral reef off the list, UNESCO has postponed a previously intended decision, the UN organization announced on Friday. Australia fears that if the reef makes it onto the list, it will hit the country’s tourism sector.
A majority of the committee considers placing the reef on the danger list “premature”, Unesco said on Friday. The UN World Heritage Committee states that climate change is a global phenomenon that cannot be attributed to one country. Unesco does call on the Australians to draw up an action plan for February 2022. Then the committee will reassess whether the Great Barrier Reef, located on the east coast of the country, falls under the endangered heritage.
Also read: End threatens for Australian coral reef
When UNESCO announced last month that the reef would be placed on the list of endangered natural areas, Australia did everything it could to prevent this. Labeling the reef as an endangered natural phenomenon would be at the expense of tourism, according to Australia. Unesco initially thought that the coral reef belongs on the list because Australia is too lax in maintaining the area. For example, according to the organization, the coral reef has deteriorated considerably over the past six years and the Australian government is doing too little to combat climate change and improve water quality.
The coral is sensitive to the extreme temperatures Australia has faced in recent years. The algae in the reef do not thrive under a long period of heat. In addition, the coral is bleaching and the reef may be dying. Not only the temperature affects the quality of the reef, but also the emissions of fossil fuels, which the ocean absorbs.
For years, Australian authorities have opposed UNESCO’s bid to place the Great Barrier Reef on the World Heritage List as Endangered. The reef is a major attraction for tourists and provides the Australian economy billions of euros annually.
To make the UN agency change its mind, Australia this month invited EU ambassadors to snorkel in the reef. Australian environment minister Sussan Ley publicly denounced the UNESCO plan, which she said was “flawed”. Ley stated that there was “politics” behind the plan, although she did not clarify in what way. Behind the scenes, the country also increased the pressure on UNESCO. Ley acknowledged that climate change threatens the coral area, but in her view “the best reef in the world” does not belong on the list.