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  • Rikki Lambert

Australia pushes back on UNESCO danger listing for Barrier Reef

Australia's environment minister has used a nature summit in Canada to tell UNESCO the Great Barrier Reef does not deserve an in-danger listing.

Tanya Plibersek has engaged with officials from UNESCO on the sidelines of the COP15 conference in Montreal, where a new global pact to protect nature is being hammered out.

The environment minister reiterated the government's strong objection to an in-danger listing for the World Heritage-listed site, saying it's not right to single out one ecosystem when climate change is a universal threat:

"I've spoken to UNESCO during this conference and made very clear that we understand that globally, our oceans are threatened by climate change, our landscapes, our environment as a whole, is threatened by climate change.
"We don't see an argument for singling out the Great Barrier Reef for an in-danger listing because no one takes protecting the reef more seriously than we do, as Australians."

Recently on Flow, former environment minister and now deputy Liberal leader Sussan Ley told Flow:

"A couple of years ago I travelled to Europe to directly lobby the members of the international grouping, UNESCO that makes the decision about listing the Barrier Reef as in danger. I was able to convince them it didn't make any sense and the reef wasn't listed. I expect the same action from this government because it will devastate the tourism businesses that are up and down the 2300 km of reef catchment.
"It's a massive area, it's completely misunderstood by the people who, while well-meaning, probably havent visited it and don't understand it."

A UN mission that toured the reef in March, when the Morrison government was still in power, released its long-awaited report last month, saying the reef should be listed as a World Heritage site in danger.

It found Australia's efforts have not been enough to protect the reef from climate change, poor water quality, harmful fishing activities and other threats.

Speaking from the COP15 conference, Ms Plibersek said the new Labor government was acting on climate change in a way the Morrison government refused to.

"One of the first acts of our new government was to legislate stronger ambition on climate change. So we are prepared to legislate, we are prepared to invest to protect the reef.
"We don't need anyone to tell us its necessary to protect this most beautiful natural phenomenon."

She also pointed to investments in addressing water quality and crown-of-thorns starfish, which prey on coral polyps.

A decision on whether to inscribe the reef on the list of World Heritage sites in danger will require the backing of the World Heritage Committee when it meets next year.

Former Environment Minister Sussan Ley talked about the push to escalate concern over the Great Barrier Reef recently with Flow - listen to the full interview below on the Flow podcast player:


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