Australia’s Great Barrier Reef just avoided the “in danger” status after a UNESCO decision. The decision not to place Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef on UNESCO’s list of endangered places took place at the annual meeting of the organization’s World Heritage Committee (WHC) in Poland.
Despite the conclusion, the WHC said it still has concerns about water quality targets and land clearing laws in Queensland.
The WHC decides what makes the “in danger” list, and being on it means that the site’s future integrity may be compromised. Such threats can be an imminent or potential threat, and once a site makes it into the list, the WHC can allocate funds to help it.
UNESCO won’t add the Great Barrier Reef to its ‘in danger’ list
Federal Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg stated that the government invested heavily in the reef, but it would take time for any noticeable improvements to occur.
“This announcement overnight is a big win for Australia and a big win for the Turnbull Government,” said Frydenberg, according to ABC Australia. “We’ve received a strong endorsement that our Reef 2050 plan, which is a coordinated, integrated plan with the Queensland Government, is working.”
However, Queensland Environment Minister Steven Miles said that the Federal Government was falsely taking credit for the resolution to not include the Great Barrier Reef on UNESCO’s “in danger” list. Miles noted that the State Government had done all the heavy lifting, not Frydenberg.
“It was the work over the last two-and-a-half years that convinced them not to list the Reef as in danger, and convinced them now that we’re making good progress in implementing the plan,” said Miles.
The environment minister added that the real change was the election of the Palaszczuk Government and that he believes Frydenberg is claiming credit for a lot of their good work.
Australian Federal and State Governments promise to up efforts to protect coral reef
UNESCO said that land clearing is a major problem that affects the health of the Great Barrier Reef and added that increased efforts were needed. The organization also criticized Australia’s slow progress in improving water quality, adding that the current timeframe cannot abide for accomplishing the specified conservation targets.
UNESCO noted that climate change remains as the reef’s most significant threat and it called on the Australian government to provide a comprehensive update on its protection measures and efforts by December 2019.
Meanwhile, in Queensland, stricter tree clearing laws failed to get through Parliament, as the Palaszczuk Government failed to toughen these laws last year, but since has committed to implementing changes, as long as the Labor Party is re-elected.
Miles noted the Queensland Government had “fought tooth and nail” to pass the land clearing laws. He believes that the committee recognized that after the party’s re-election, the government would revise those regulations, and so they provided with more time. He reassured that by next year the committee would have a different view.
Annastacia Palaszczuk, Queensland Premier said the news was good. She stated that she would like to see more and more people, not only from Australia but from across the world.
The Great Barrier Reef supports over 69,000 jobs in Queensland and provides billions of dollars to the Queensland economy each year, she said. Palaszczuk said that the reef has also had some big impacts due to the cyclone that hit it recently. She stood by her government’s commitment to protecting the bleached reef.
The Great Barrier Reef suffered massive bleaching events two years in a row
The Climate Council, on the other hand, said it had no doubt that the Reef was in danger. Professor Will Steffen, the council’s climate scientist, noted all levels of government were failing to address the biggest threat to the Great Barrier Reef: the burning of fossil fuels.
“This isn’t a great win at all,” said Steffen. “This is a huge cover-up and as long as we deny the existence of the main problem, the Great Barrier Reef is even in worse danger.”
The professor said that two years of back-to-back mass coral bleaching should be enough evidence and pose a clear warning to the UNESCO and the Federal Government. The northern section of the reef, which is the purest part, has suffered a 67 percent of bleaching, assured Steffen. He believes there’s but one reason why that’s happened: high ocean temperatures caused by the burning of fossil fuels.
Greenpeace also noted the decision that allowed the Federal Government to continue with a long-term reef plan that doesn’t address climate change. UNESCO’s WHC and the Government’s 2050 Advisory Committee have, on several occasions, warned that the Australian Government’s Reef 2050 Plan, which addresses water quality and land clearing, is inadequate.
Source: ABC Australia