UN says the Great Barrier Reef is in danger, but Australia ignores warning!5 min readReading Time: 4 minutes
Do you recognise this beautiful and pristine place?
It’s the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, and it’s in trouble! Here’s why..
Owliver’s Obscure Observations
The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching for over 2,300 kilometres. The reef is located in the Coral Sea, off the coast of Queensland, Australia.
It is home to more than 1,500 species of fish, 411 types of hard coral, one-third of the world’s soft corals, 134 species of sharks and rays, six of the world’s seven species of threatened marine turtles, and more than 30 species of marine mammals.
Australia recently expressed disappointment at a report by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) which listed the Great Barrier Reef as being “in danger”. The UNESCO in its report said the rich biodiversity hotspot has faced over-deterioration due to climate change.
This essentially means that the Great Barrier Reef, which was deemed a World Heritage Site, may be stripped of this status. To draw attention to the reef being in danger, the UNESCO decided to downgrade its status, which Australia says is a flawed decision, calling it politically-motivated. In fact, Australian environment minister Sussan Ley hinted that China, which heads the UNESCO committee, is behind this decision. This accusation comes after the two countries have not bene getting along.
What did the UNESCO say?
The UN body released a draft report recommending the reef’s ‘World Heritage’ status be downgraded because of its dramatic coral decline. The report, however, did applaud Australia’s efforts to improve reef quality and its financial commitment to this cause.
However, it noted “with the utmost concern and regret… that the long-term outlook for the ecosystem of the property has further deteriorated from poor to very poor,” referring to Australia’s move to downgrade the reef’s health status.
What does ‘in danger’ mean?
So being in the UN’s ‘in danger’ list isn’t looked upon well by the world. It’s actually a matter of dishonour! According to UNESCO, some nations have their sites added to this list to gain international attention and for help.
UNESCO has recommended that a total of seven sites be added to the endangered list and that the two sites on the list – Liverpool’s waterfront and Selous game reserve in Tanzania, where poachers are wreaking havoc – be stripped of their World Heritage status altogether.
Owliver’s Obscure Observations
UNESCO designates World Heritage sites for having cultural, historical, scientific or other form of significance. To be selected, a World Heritage site must be a somehow unique landmark which is geographically and historically identifiable and has special cultural or physical significance.
Is being downgraded a big deal?
Yes, because this has prompted environment experts to pull up the Australian government over its neglect of this very important area
Environmental campaigners said the threat to the Great Barrier Reef’s heritage status highlights Australia’s lack of action to curb the carbon emissions which contribute to global warming.
“The recommendation from UNESCO is clear and unequivocal that the Australian government is not doing enough to protect our greatest natural asset, especially on climate change,” said WWF head of oceans Richard Leck.
What will Australia do next?
The country’s environment minister said that Australia would challenge the move, meaning it will oppose the move. She said they will pull up UN officials for taking back their assurances ahead of the World Heritage Committee’s 44th session in China next month, where the recommendation will be formally considered.
Ley said she had spoken to UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay to express “very clearly our strong disappointment, even bewilderment“. The UN body did not consider the billions of dollars spent attempting to protect the world’s largest coral reef, the minister added.
Before you go, can you recognise this shy and rarely-spotted species that calls the Great Barrier Reef home?
Sources: Bloomberg Quint, BBC, Deccan Herald