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UNESCO has sent a powerful message to the Australian Government: the Great Barrier Reef should be placed on the List of World Heritage In Danger because of the threat of climate change along with poor water quality.  

Last night, UNESCO released its draft State of Conservation report about the Great Barrier Reef which contains a draft decision to be ratified by the World Heritage Committee in July.  

The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) said the UNESCO’s draft report is a clear and powerful analysis of the state of the Reef and what must be done to preserve it.

Environmental consultant to AMCS Imogen Zethoven said: “The UNESCO report makes it very clear: limiting global temperature rise to 1.5C is a critical threshold for the Reef.

“Australia’s climate record is more consistent with a 2.5-3.0 C rise in global average temperature – a level that would destroy the Great Barrier Reef and all the world’s coral reefs.

“The Australian Government’s inaction on climate change has led the Reef to the brink of an ‘In Danger’ listing.”

The UNESCO report calls for a Reactive Monitoring Mission to Australia to develop a set of “corrective measures” centred around ensuring that the Reef 2050 Plan addresses the threat of climate change.

IUCN, the advisory body to the World Heritage Committee, last year downgraded the Great Barrier Reef’s outlook to ‘critical’. In 2019, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority downgraded the Reef’s outlook to ‘very poor’.

UNESCO’s draft decision calls on Australia to take accelerated action in other areas especially to do with poor water quality and the slow uptake of improved catchment management to tackle pollution of the Reef’s waters.

The draft decision also calls on the Australian Government to report back to UNESCO on 1 February 2022 to demonstrate how it is implementing all the requests. The state of the Reef will then again be reviewed at the World Heritage Committee meeting next year.

The World Heritage Committee meets 16-31 July to consider UNESCO’s draft report and to approve a final decision about the Reef.

The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) is the voice for Australia’s ocean wildlife. We are an independent charity, staffed by a committed group of professional and passionate scientists, educators and advocates who have defended Australia’s oceans for 50 years. www.marineconservation.org.au