World Heritage Committee to consider Great Barrier Reef advice to give Australia 6 months more to show progress

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  • World Heritage Committee meeting started in Saudi Arabia on the weekend, will consider decisions on World Heritage properties from September 13-16

  • UNESCO recommended giving Australia until February 2024 to show further progress to better protect Great Barrier Reef

  • Australia & Queensland must increase emissions reductions targets

The World Heritage Committee will consider the recommendation from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to give Australia until February next year to show progress on actions to protect the Great Barrier Reef at its meeting in Saudi Arabia this week.

Last month UNESCO released its latest State of Conservation Report on the Great Barrier Reef and draft recommendations for the World Heritage Committee to consider. It noted the progress the Australian and Queensland governments had made on protecting the Reef especially after the election of the Albanese Government. However UNESCO expressed serious concern in the lack of progress in tackling water quality and the threat of climate change to the Reef. The Reef could face an ‘In Danger’ listing if the two governments do not show further progress on improving its health and resilience.

AMCS Senior Great Barrier Reef Campaigner Cherry Muddle said: “The Great Barrier Reef faces the fight of its life, a fight that is set to get harder with climate change and a predicted El Niño increasing the likelihood of marine heatwaves and coral bleaching.

“Australia’s protection of the Reef has been in the global spotlight for the past decade, under the scrutiny of the global community, including UNESCO and the World Heritage Committee.

“UNESCO made 22 recommendations to the Australian and Queensland governments to help protect the Reef and retain its World Heritage status in its Reactive Mission Report last year, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, improving water quality, stopping tree clearing in Reef catchments and restoring coastal wetlands.

“UNESCO has given Australia the road map to protect the Reef, and the World Heritage Committee will consider its recommendation that Australia reports back in five months time to show progress on the road map.

“Climate change remains the greatest threat to the Reef. Both the Australian and Queensland governments must urgently cut fossil fuel emissions to protect the Reef to limit warming to 1.5OC – a critical threshold for coral reefs.

“The governments also need to address tree clearing, which is still a massive problem for the waters of the Great Barrier Reef. Clearing increases sediment runoff into Reef waters, smothering the coral and the seagrasses that marine life such as dugongs depend upon.”

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